Today our union celebrates National Primary Principals’ Day, thanking members for the contribution they make as school leaders each and every day.
IEU-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the past 18 months, in particular, has been a challenging time for school communities.
“We know that challenge would have been much greater without the tireless work of principals in supporting their staff and broader school community,” Mr Burke said.
“Principals have adeptly managed the uncertainty of school closures, the transition to online learning and many other disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This period has reinforced that principals are not only leaders within their schools, but community leaders who make a difference to the success and wellbeing of broader society,” Mr Burke said.
Health and wellbeing of school leaders needs action
“While we celebrate our principal members today, we also want to remind members to take care and reach out for support if needed,” Mr Burke said.
“Our union makes a difference and is always here to support our members.”
The most recent report from The Australian Principal Occupation Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey (2020) revealed that 2020 was a year unlike any other and school leaders began the year under the stressful conditions of widespread bushfires and/or the COVID-19 pandemic.
“School leaders have endured continuous stress during 2020, having navigated their schools through uncertainty from constant change, and long hours in terms 1 and 2 of 2020,” the report read.
“The results show that school leaders were fatigued from constant exposure to occupational stressors.”
School leaders reported worsening results for long-term health indicators such as burnout, sleeping troubles and stress, and continue to work long hours, where during the school term, 22.2% worked more than 60 hours a week.
An alarming percentage of school leaders (83 in 100) continue to be subjected to at least one form of offensive behaviour.
The report concluded that, “combining the higher risk of burnout, high exposure to Offensive Behaviours, the continuous strain of health and wellbeing, high demands, overwhelming responsibilities of the job, the current aging workforce, and retirement intentions, Australia will soon experience recruitment and retention problems.”
Make a difference in our profession
The report gave 16 recommendations to improve the health and wellbeing of school leaders; however, they would benefit all school staff who also report high levels of stress, burnout and psychological injuries related to work.
Mr Burke said that notably, these recommendations align with our union’s campaign Teaching: It’s our profession.
“Our union continues to call for greater professional autonomy for school staff, decreasing arbitrary workload demands and increasing respect of school staff within the community,” Mr Burke said.
“We can make a difference together and the more school staff we welcome into our community the stronger our collective voice and actions – this includes school principals.
“Principal roles are fast-paced and essential for strong school communities; however, they can lead to your rights at work being at the back of your mind.
“Principals have just as much need as any other school employee for a professional voice at work, to protect their wages and working conditions, to access expert industrial advice and indemnity insurance, as well as provide advocacy on the professional issues at the heart of their role,” Mr Burke said.