The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2023 

Findings show urgent action is needed to address Principal mental health and wellbeing 

 Results from the Australian Principal Occupational Health and Wellbeing Survey 2023 show progress in addressing workload issues continues to be slow and this is impacting on the health and wellbeing of school leaders. The SPC President, Craig Petersen, said that sadly he wasn’t surprised by these findings: 

“Our own data from our SPC Principal Wellbeing Survey shows increased workload as a continuous main source of stress for our leaders. As a Principal Association, we continue to advocate for changes in policy around workload and the administrative burden carried by Principals and the survey findings released today reinforce that change is critical.” 

Mr. Petersen said the survey findings were particularly concerning around mental health and wellbeing: 

“The 2023 survey included 5 new data sets around psychological stress, health and resilience and it was really quite confronting reading to see that nearly 1 in 5 respondents are categorised as having moderate to severe depression. This is much higher than the general population figure and encapsulates just how crucial it is to address elements such as workload, equitable school funding and adequate resourcing and staffing.” 

One of the most concerning findings to emerge from the 2023 data is that physical violence towards school leaders has increased 76.5% since the survey’s inception in 2011. 

“We have been surveying SPC members for over a decade about Principal wellbeing and the trend towards an increase in violent behaviour has been something we have seen emerge in recent years. It was not in the top group of stressors when we commenced the survey, however we have seen an extreme spike in reporting of cyberbullying and online harassment in recent years.” commented Mr Petersen. 

A new question, asking how people respond to the statement ‘I often seriously consider leaving my current job’, resulted in more than half (56.4%) agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement. While Mr. Petersen said the impact of this could be enormous, with potentially hundreds of school leaders leaving the profession, he also wanted to acknowledge the resilience of school leaders: 

“There’s no doubt this data highlights some very concerning trends, however I think it’s also important to note that results on the Brief Resilience Scale (which measures the ability of school leaders to bounce back after adverse experience) have actually continued to improve since being introduced in 2017. School leaders are incredibly resilient and I think this quality is commendable and something which I see constantly in play amongst our membership. What we need now is to see a strong response to the key findings and recommendations in order to preserve the health of our school leaders.” 

Business Partners

Education Partners