The 2017 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey continues a six-year trend of steadily increasing pressures on school principals and deputies.
According to report author Associate Professor Philip Riley, the survey reveals that the job demands of principals have increased, and mental health issues associated with staff and students were increasing, causing additional stress.
“As principals are retiring, other senior teachers at the top of their game are saying they are not prepared to take on the role of school leader because of the punishing workload,” Riley said.
“What every school system in Australia needs to urgently address are the levels of burnout, stress and additional responsibility being loaded onto principals.”
Most principals reported their main source of support were their partners (80 per cent), work colleagues (67 per cent) and friends (67 per cent).
Only 26 per cent said their main source of support was a supervisor or manager and even fewer, (6 per cent) said they were supported mainly by the Department of Education or their employer.
“There is a decreasing level of personal support for principals from within the schools they lead and from their employers. That is a major concern,” Riley said.
“Educational employers can help by reducing job demands, or increase resources to cope with increasing demand.”
The report also reveals concerning levels of offensive behaviour, bullying and violence are being inflicted on principals by parents and students.
This follows on from alarming rates reported in August last year in an EducationHQ investigation.
“Close to 50 per cent of principals have received threats in their workplaces,” Riley said.
“This is unacceptable and parents and students must show more restraint when dealing with school principals than resorting to violence, threats or intimidation to solve problems or help them manage their anger.”
AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said school systems needed to do more to support principals and ensure all schools had the resources they needed for their students.
“The research also confirms that principals are being exposed to increasing levels of violent and bullying behaviour, and that this contributes to the stress of the job,” Haythorpe said in a statement.
“As well as supporting principals exposed to violent behaviour, we need to make sure that schools have the resources for students to get the individual support and programs they need to reduce difficult behaviours.”
Haythorpe said it was deeply concerning that less than 10 per cent of principals saw their primary support as coming from their employers or education departments.
“If we want teachers to put up their hands to become the next generation of principals, we need to make sure that principals are being supported.”