Principals at risk of burn out

Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia

COVID-19 pandemic adding to high stress burden of principals

The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) is concerned the stress burden on principals as a result of initiating rapid and ongoing educational and institutional changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic may put more principals at risk of burn out.

AHISA CEO, Ms Beth Blackwood, said results of the 2019 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey, released today, reveal that principals work longer hours, suffer far higher levels of work-related stress and are at greater risk of physical violence and threats of violence than the general population.

‘The 2019 Survey also shows that principals are more likely to suffer burnout than the general population,’ said Ms Blackwood, who was a member of the Survey’s consultative committee.

‘Since school leaders responded to the 2019 survey, they have been leading their communities through the extreme challenges of drought, bushfires and now a coronavirus pandemic. Many have had to deal with the impact of all three,’ said Ms Blackwood.

‘When principals’ health and wellbeing are already at severe risk, we ask that parents and carers take extra care that their communications with school leaders and school staff – whether on school grounds or via email and phone – remain courteous and respectful,’ said Ms Blackwood.

‘There has been a very positive deepening of relationships between schools and parents and carers to meet the learning needs of students during COVID-19 restrictions,’ said Ms Blackwood.

‘Parents have recognised and appreciated the extraordinary work of schools, and we are hopeful the patience, kindness and good humour that have characterised home-school relationships during remote learning will continue as all schools return to full, on-site education provision.’

Ms Blackwood said principals carry the burden of responsibility for managing the successful transition to onsite schooling and will need community support if they are to avoid burn out.

‘We understand that parents want to ensure their children are safe and getting the best possible learning experiences at school,’ said Ms Blackwood. ‘Principals of course share that goal, but we ask parents to accept that right now principals must make decisions that take account of the wellbeing of all members of the school community, students and staff.’

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