Some education departments are better at caring for the health and wellbeing of their principals than others. It’s time to share what works.
The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) is urging state and territory Ministers for Education to put the health and wellbeing of Australia’s school leaders high on the agenda of their next national meeting.
AHISA CEO, Ms Beth Blackwood, said results of the 2020 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 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 2020 Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey also shows that principals were at even greater risk of burnout after managing lockdowns, remote learning and distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic,’ said Ms Blackwood. ‘Some principals began 2020 by helping their communities respond to bushfires and heavy smoke pollution, droughts and even floods. It has all taken a toll.’
But it seems, said Ms Blackwood, that some principals report better wellbeing outcomes according to the state or territory department that employs them.
‘It’s time that state and territory Ministers for Education shared information about which elements of their system work practices and health and wellbeing programs for principals are having the greatest impact,’ said Ms Blackwood.
The 2020 Survey report notes that, based on their responses, 30 per cent of school leaders received a ‘red flag’ alert after completing the survey, advising them to contact Employee Assistance Programs and local services for support. Principals in Victoria and the Northern Territory, however, where departments of education have made significant changes to principals’ work practices, were the least likely to generate alerts and the most likely to report the highest levels of job satisfaction.
‘It is alarming to think some principals are at risk of long-term damage to their health and wellbeing which could easily be avoided by a simple exchange of information and adjustments in workplace practices’, said Ms Blackwood. ‘This is information that should be made available to all school sectors, not only as administrative good practice, but as a national “thank you” to all principals for their outstanding work in 2020.’