Saturday, 14 May 2016

Delayed payout for Dr Thompson

I remember writing about this tragedy in my blog when it occurred. There is a rise in assaults on Principals in our system and stress related illness. Many principals are the target for poor parenting and bad decision making not to mention stresses associated with dealing with some of the complex issues staff and children bring to school. 

From The Age
Research reveals rise in attacks on Australian school principals
The widow of a Melbourne principal who took his own life has won a landmark payout that could pave the way for better support for school leaders.
After a gruelling 18-month wait, the wife of former Eltham Primary School principal Dr Mark Thompson also received official confirmation that workplace stress was a factor in her husband's death.
Lynda Thompson, who is also a principal, said she was not interested in the money.
She pursued the Workcover dependent's compensation claim for her husband's legacy.
"I want to improve the working conditions of principal and teachers," she said.
She said Workcover claims involving mental health issues were very hard to prove.
Dr Thompson was the respected principal of Eltham Primary School but tragically took his own life in 2014 after a parent accused him of discriminating against their child. He was suffering from workplace stress, and worked up to seven days a week.
Increasing workloads and complaints from parents had made life tough for principals, Ms Thompson said.
"Parents have a lot of say in how you run your school, they think they have the right to question you all the time," she said.
"Principals are under the pump with parent complaints. It is very time consuming and unfortunately principals have to prove their innocence all the time."
Ms Thompson has been on leave all year, and said the Education Department had not provided much support.
"My life is very different," she said. "My family miss him every day. He has missed out on his daughter's wedding, the birth of our first grandchild. I am finding it very difficult."
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said it was a landmark settlement.
"I don't believe there has been another case where it has been established that workplace stress was the direct cause of a principal's tragic death."
Ms Podbury said she hoped the case will lead to better resilience and wellbeing programs for principals, and improved the way parents' complaints were handled.
it probably means that they being worksafe was of the view that 
Liberty Sanger from Maurice Blackburn said the case was a "wake-up call" for employers, who should look at their resilience training and vicarious trauma policies.
"This case highlights that very profound psychological injuries occur in the workplace, with dire and fatal consequences," she said. "If others have sustained or are sustaining an injury it is very important that they seek treatment."
An Education Department spokeswoman said it took the health and wellbeing of staff very seriously and provided a range of services to support Principals.  
This included a principal support unit and 150 additional staff in regional offices.
A study co-authored by Dr Thompson before his death revealed that assistant principals were reluctant to take on the role of principal due to long hours, high levels of stress, burnout and abuse.
Separate research conducted by the Australian Catholic University found that attacks on principals were increasing, with one in three school leaders experiencing physical violence on the job.

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Part of the coverage of this story from The ABC 
I don't believe DET adequately support principals. They certainly didn't under the old regime with the limited support available from Regional Office. 

Ms Thompson, who is also a school principal, has taken time off work and believes the Victorian Education Department should do more to support its staff.

"There was no help from [the] regional network leader, really, other than to say they were sorry about it," Ms Thompson said.

Evan Hughes, the principal of Willmott Park Primary School in Craigieburn, worked with Mr Thompson and said he would like to see more support for principals.

"The vast majority of parents are fine and they respect the school and respect the role of the principal in the school," he said.

"But there's always that rogue family or rogue parents that just won't let an issue go and just pursue the principal and pursue the teaching staff or the administration." 

Ms Podbury agreed it was a demanding job and said she wanted the Victorian Government to spend money on resilience training for principals.

"This is a tough job and it can push people to the very edge — and, as we've now seen, completely over the edge," she said.

"[The Victorian Government] is aware that this is a big problem and I think they struggle to respond appropriately to it. But they are prepared to work with us and listen."

WorkSafe Victoria said it could not provide details about individual claims. 

The Victorian Education Department said it took the health and wellbeing of staff "very seriously" and provided a range of services to principals.

A spokesman added support was being continually improved.

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