The 2016 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey was released this week. The survey has run nationally every year since 2011. Since the project began, approximately 50% of Australia’s 10,000 principals have taken part.
Media coverage about school principals’ occupational health, safety and wellbeing has increased significantly, raising awareness of the issue. In response to the 2014 survey, the Teachers Health Fund has reduced waiting time for new members requesting psychological services from 12 to 2 months.
The survey found 55% of principals worked upwards of 51-56 hours per week, with ~27% working longer. Although this has not increased since the survey's inception, it is too high for a healthy lifestyle.
"There appears to have been some easing of hours worked during term break, which could be a welcome indicator that school leaders are acting on the evidence that managing their own health and wellbeing cannot be ignored," said AHISA CEO Beth Blackwood.
"At the same time, there is evidence of further deterioration in health indicators such as stress, sleeping troubles and burnout."
The two greatest sources of stress for the last five years have been workload and no time for teaching and learning. An increasing source of stress has become mental health issues of students and staff.
There has been an increase in 'Offensive Behaviour' experienced, with the prevalence rate for 'Threats of Violence' extremely high and 'Actual Physical Violence' also very high. Although South Australia and Queensland have seen a decrease in offensive behaviour during the same period.
"Schools are tasked with creating safe communities for students and respectful relationships must be modelled by all adults in those communities if schools are to succeed in this role. Civil behaviour should be a general expectation of all Australians," said Blackwood.
Despite this, participants report significantly higher job satisfaction than the general population.