Workload intensification contributing to mental health concerns for Principals

The NSW SPC is concerned about the increasing workload intensification experienced by Principals and the impact this has on their mental health and wellbeing. These concerns are highlighted by findings from the recent Australian Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey which indicated that Australian Principals are the victims of stress at a rate 1.7 times higher than the general population. Similarly, a 2015 survey conducted by the Australian Education Union found that high workloads were cited as the most significant consideration when thinking about leaving the profession with 73% of teachers surveyed indicating their workload had increased in the past year.

The President of the NSW SPC, Chris Presland, said these findings come as no surprise

“We have been surveying our members for a number of years about Principal wellbeing and the increasing workload is consistently identified as one of the most significant issues impacting negatively on Principals. The fact that we have this longitudinal data sends a strong message to policymakers that this problem isn’t going away.”

Mr Presland explained that workload intensification is also a result of the changing role of being a Principal.

“I think we can look at workload intensification in two ways. Firstly, there has certainly been an increase in the sheer volume of work within the Principalship. We are working longer hours and working harder within each hour spent at work. However, I think the second component of workload intensification is a little more nuanced and that’s about the process of change being experienced in schools as a result of broader technological, social and organisational change. SPC Members are indicating that not only are they “doing more” but that the relentless pace of educational reform rarely allows for any serious consolidation. These challenges include elements such as the increasing number of work tasks, the “parenting” that increasingly seems to be a part of what schools are expected to do, shortages of specialist expertise and unreasonable timeframes and deadlines.”

The NSW SPC suggests that the issue of workload intensification needs to be addressed not only for current Principals but also for aspiring leaders.

“We need to support and build a culture of leadership resilience for Principals. Societal expectations and bureaucratic demands are leading to Principals experiencing chronic work pressure as they are expected to take on a growing economic and management oriented perspective in running their schools. We need to address workload intensification not only for our current Principals but also for our aspiring leaders to ensure they are equipped to take that next step in their Principalship journey,” Mr Presland said.

Chris Presland
President, NSW Secondary Principals’ Council
M: 0414986514
E: chris.presland@det.nsw.edu.au

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