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Principals plead for better treatment post-pandemic


Ms Spink said the challenging nature of the role could make it harder to recruit talented leaders.

“Why would anybody want to step into a role that is so huge and stressful, especially in a time like now?”

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The levels of stress felt by principals even before the pandemic has been highlighted by the newly released Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing survey for 2019.

The annual survey revealed that principals were subject to violence, threats, bullying and conflict at a far greater rate than the general public. Of the 2385 principals surveyed, 42.2 per cent had experienced physical violence as opposed to 3.9 per cent of other people.

Survey author Professor Phil Riley, of Deakin University, said a societal problem was playing out in schools.

“It’s just appalling. The thing that worries me is we’re about to start collecting data for our 10th year of this survey, and every year it’s gone up,” he said.

“There is no relenting on this, it’s getting harder and harder to be in that position.”

Professor Riley also hoped the new-found respect for educators that had emerged during the pandemic would help improve things long term.

“One of the things that’s happened is people have had their eyes opened about how difficult it really is. It really is a very complicated job and people do have a new respect for that, I think,” he said.

“We have to say ‘no more, it needs to stop’. COVID-19 could be a great resetting moment.”

Victorian Principals Association president Anne-Maree Kliman said she was extremely concerned that aggression towards principals was increasing.

“I’m not surprised by it because it’s what I hear from my members, and as a principal for 17 years, I experienced it,” she said.

“It’s really important that the community understands principals are always willing to have conversations and always willing to provide support or guidance but they must always be approached in a respectful way; that’s the immediate thing we need to have happen.”

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