School Principals Under Stress as Violence and Paperwork Increase

By: Clare Bruce

A third of school principals are working up to 65 hour weeks, swamped in paperwork and bureaucratic checklists, and burnout is high.

That’s according to the latest Australian Principals Health and Wellbeing Survey, which also showed principals are dealing with increasing threats of violence.

The national survey of close to 2800 principals showed that a third of those who responded had experienced violence, while nearly half had dealt with threats of violence.

Peter Bosker, principal of Northcross Christian School in Ryde, said that the job is becoming more and more stressful each year, especially as the administration side of the job increases.

In fact the admin detracts from the childrens’ education, and can turn teachers off the idea of becoming a principal altogether.

“I spend a lot more time in my office now than years ago,” Mr Bosker said.

“My best part of the day is when I walk outside my office, go into a classroom, go into the playground, and see the kids, the glint in their eyes when they’re learning, or the giggle when they’re playing in the playground. They’re the things that make it all worthwhile. But unfortunately a lot more [of the job] is admin-driven.”

He said the long hours are simply ‘the way it is’.

“The increased-compliance world that we live in is changing our job from being a principal…to being more of a CEO.”

“I think all principals get into the position because they love kids, they love education, they want to make a difference. But the increased-compliance world that we live in is changing our job from being a principal overseeing education, to being more of a CEO. And that’s a frustration.

“We’ve had to change staff appointments to cater for that compliance-crazy world we live in. I get it—but I think it’s a bit over the top.

“Extra curricula things are all good, but it needs to be balanced. And we live in a society that seems to be so driven and consumer based, that it’s actually hard to stop the flow and say ‘no let’s see if this is a worthwhile pursuit for kids’ learning’.”

The Struggle for Work Life Balance

school principal

He said principals tend to be “their own worst enemy” and have to be vigilant to keep a reasonable work-life balance.

“Because we love what we’re doing we’re willing to take it home, to respond to emails and SMS’s 24-7, and that’s not the best way to manage it,” he said.

“We need to model [work-life balance] because we need to raise up the next generation of leaders, and I do hear lots of teachers saying ‘I would never want to be a principal’. I get a bit sad and disappointed when I hear that, because we want people who aspire to the role.”

He said there’s a need for better care and mentoring of teachers.

“I think support and mentoring is probably the key… learning how to manage the work-life balance, and having other interests,” he said.

The report calls for a review of the work practices of principals and deputies, and a national strategy to improve their working conditions.

Article supplied with thanks to Hope 103.2.

About the Author: Clare Bruce is a digital journalist for Hope Media.