Surviving rather than thriving: more support is needed for Principals

The 2017 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey shows increasing workplace pressures continue to impact negatively on the health and wellbeing of school principals. The NSW SPC President, Chris Presland, said the survey data highlights the need for a national conversation to address the workload intensification issues facing principals:

“The survey shows that principals are experiencing workplace demands that are 1.5 times higher than the general population which translates into higher levels of stress symptoms (1.7 times higher) and burnout (1.6 times higher). This is the sixth annual survey reporting these trends so what we have here is some very powerful longitudinal data which illustrates that this problem isn’t going away. It’s time to start a national conversation to address these issues head-on.”

Mr. Presland said he was not surprised to read that principals reported stress was mainly caused by the “sheer quantity of administrative work” they were required to perform.

“Workload intensification and a lack of time to focus on teaching and learning are two themes which are consistently raised by SPC members as areas of concern. What I find interesting about the 2017 data is that we’re actually seeing a very consistent message from school leaders across all educational sectors indicating that they need more support. Principals are observing that not only are they “doing more” but that the relentless pace of educational reform rarely allows for any serious consolidation. While this is a powerful message for policymakers, little will be achieved if the response isn’t comprehensive. We must rethink the way we support schools, teachers and principals if we want to create healthy and engaging learning environments for Australian students. This includes ensuring we have the resources, support and funding to do our job.”

The 2017 survey data is also a timely reminder that issues related to workplace violence, threats and bullying need to be addressed for the next generation of educational leaders:

“It’s a real concern to see that close to 50% of principals have received threats in the workplace. This is just totally unacceptable and we need our political leaders to take a stand here and look at how this can be addressed at every level of society. If we don’t address issues such as offensive behaviour, we risk losing the next generation of school leaders as they will choose not to apply for principal positions or leave the teaching profession altogether. The 2017 survey data shows that it is critically important that we improve the support available to principals. We want our principals to be thriving, not merely surviving”, Mr Presland said.

Chris Presland
President, NSW Secondary Principals’ Council
M: 0414986514

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