Call to nurture principal wellbeing - Education Matters Magazine
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Call to nurture principal wellbeing

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As school principals across Australia have been granted greater autonomy and responsibility over decisions and directions at their school, the call to nurture their health and wellbeing has been thrust into the spotlight.

With recent research showing that school principals experience a higher prevalence of offensive behaviour at work, burnout, stress and sleeping troubles, the Principals Australia Institute has called on Australians to respect and support school principals and requested that parents, carers and communities actively and positively engage with their school principals and school leaders.

The Institute’s CEO Jim Davies recommended that school communities create space for principals to get to the core business – leading quality teaching and learning in their schools – and find ways the principal can put effort into the things that account for students in classrooms.

“Principals are not shying away from [autonomy] at all,” Davies told Education Matters. “In fact, principals are welcoming the sense of more autonomy, but what comes with more autonomy is authority, responsibility and accountability, so giving school principals more autonomy actually provides them with more authority and that brings with it more responsibility associated with the decisions and directions that have been taken at a local level and, indeed, the accountability that goes with that.

“One thing that needs to be said about this is that the context of every school and every school community is in many ways is unique. School leadership is contextualised by school location, what sector it belongs to, the nature of its community, socioeconomic background of its students and so on, and leadership is very much embedded in those local contexts. One of the big demands on principals is adapting their leadership to local context of the school.”

The PAI has launched a national workshop series aimed at supporting the wellbeing of principals and teachers. Its recently-released kit and training program – workON Health and Wellbeing – is designed to assist school leaders to strengthen staff health and wellbeing strategies in their school.

“It is a highly complex professional job and the demands of the job impact variously on people as they engage with the profession,” Davies said. “It’s not a reason for people to shy away from the profession, the direct opposite, it’s about understanding that those pressures are there and what we’re endeavouring to do with the workON program is to find ways and means that these professionals that engage with this activity are supported and are equipped to deal with the daily pressures that comes with the job.”

The Institute is also calling on parents, carers and communities to actively and positively engage with their school principals and school leaders.

Davies recommends that parents talk positively with their children about the sense of school leadership and their support to the school leader, and deal with any issues that arise directly with the school leader rather than involving their children.

“If I can get a message to parents in all of this it’s always talk positively and confidently about what the school and the school’s leadership and teachers can do for and with your child,” he said. “If there are circumstances where things aren’t going right in the parent’s eyes, go and talk to the school principal, go and talk to the teachers and resolve those issues adult to adult – it’s about engaging with each other for the benefit of the child and then we leave the child in a space of confidence and positive attention to what they’re trying to do at school.”

The workON Health and Wellbeing workshops are touring the country throughout March.

For more information about the workshops visit www.pai.edu.au

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