ASPA urges Education Ministers to address school leader wellbeing crisis - Education Matters Magazine
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ASPA urges Education Ministers to address school leader wellbeing crisis

The Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (ASPA) is calling for urgent action to address the escalating wellbeing crisis facing the nation’s school leaders, as revealed in the latest Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey.

ASPA President Andy Mison said the survey painted an alarming picture, with instances of physical violence towards principals up 76.5% since 2011, and more than half of school leaders considering quitting or retiring early.

Andy Mison. Image: ASPA

“We simply cannot ignore what the data trends have been telling us for well over a decade now,” Mr Mison said. “Heavy workloads, lack of time to focus on teaching and learning, and the mental health of students and staff are taking an enormous toll on our school leaders.”

“The extraordinary resilience principals continue to demonstrate in the face of these challenges is to be commended. But there is only so much they can take. If we don’t act now to better support them, many will follow through on their intention to leave, with devastating consequences for our schools.”

Mr Mison said the next Education Minister’s meeting must respond meaningfully to this report.

ASPA is proposing a sixth priority area be added to the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan to address the issues.

A Proposed Priority area 6 – ‘Retain and Sustain our Principals’ should:

  • Fund ongoing research and monitoring of principal’s health and wellbeing.
  • Incorporate principal’s health, safety and wellbeing into the next National School Reform Agreement.
  • Review principal workload to identify the optimal distribution of administrative responsibilities among schools, education systems and other agencies.
  • Invest in the training and development of skilled school administrative staff, and the business systems that support efficient school operations.
  • Strengthen authority for principals to respond to unsafe and violent behaviour.
  • Develop training and development programs specifically tailored to school principals.
  • Develop frameworks for principal remuneration benchmarked against equivalent roles in industry and the public sector that recognises the significant value, complexity and responsibility of the role.

“We urgently need a coherent and effective approach to retaining and sustaining our vital school leadership workforce,” Mr Mison said.

“School leaders have been ignored for too long – it’s time for a genuine commitment and investment that makes their wellbeing a top priority. If you want happy, healthy and successful schools, you need happy, healthy and successful school leaders.”

Key findings from the Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey:

  • Physical violence towards principals up 76.5% since 2011
  • Over half of principals subjected to threats of violence in 2023
  • One in five principals reporting moderate to severe depression
  • More than 50% of principals considering quitting or early retirement
  • Heavy workload and lack of time top sources of stress

The Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA) is the national peak body representing government secondary school leaders in every Australian state and territory.

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