Victorian schools are facing a critical shortage of principals, with one third of state school heads set to reach retirement age in the next five years.
Some schools are already struggling to attract candidates for the top job and there are concerns the situation will be exacerbated by the Andrews government’s promise to open 100 new state schools over the next eight years.
Each of these new schools will need a new principal.
Last year, 115 of Victoria's 1531 state school principals left their job, a similar trend to the previous two years.
Principal groups say workplace stress, the increasing demands of the job, violence at school and helicopter parents are pushing principals out of the profession and deterring others from applying for their jobs.
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said some schools advertising for new principals received no applicants. Others have had to advertise up to three times in order to attract suitable candidates.
“There are many assistant principals who are quite happy to stay in that role and not take that extra step to become a principal,” she said.
“The salaries do not reflect the workload, which is 60 plus hours per week, or the responsibilities.”
The lowest paid state school principal receives $135,000 per year, including superannuation, while the lowest paid assistant principal earns around $123,000, including superannuation.
While Ms Podbury said the department was working hard to avert the crisis, a lot more work was needed.
“They know I then have to jump through hoops to respond,” he explained.
“It is a massive generational change for the leaders of our schools but I know we also have a number of great people ready to fill those positions,” Mr Merlino said.
Victorian Principals Association president Anne-Maree Kliman said she was concerned the new program for aspiring principals, which includes a test that will become compulsory within three years, could deter more people from applying for the top job.
“It marginalises certain groups - regional and remote people who will have to come into the city for the assessments.”
Australian Catholic University associate professor Philip Riley said it wasn’t just Victoria that was experiencing a shortage of principals.
“We are in trouble for sure and this is a national problem,” he said.
Dr Riley, who runs an annual survey on the health and wellbeing of Australian principals, said violence was a major problem.
His most recent survey found that more than 40 per cent of principals in public schools had experienced physical violence at school.