Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Principal Health

Australia’s school principals are overwhelmed by the amount of work; having great difficulty sleeping; and are experiencing high rates of depressive symptoms, according to a new survey released today.

The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey also found one in three principals was physically attacked and that almost half (45 per cent) were threatened with violence in 2018, compared with 38 per cent in 2011.

The survey monitors school principals' and deputy or assistant principals’ health and wellbeing annually. Since it first began in 2011, data has been collected from about 50 per cent of Australia’s 10 000 principals.

Associate Professor Philip Riley from Australian Catholic University’s Institute of Positive Psychology and Education is the survey’s chief investigator. He says that the 2018 results show that our nation builders are under attack.

‘Consequently, fewer people are willing to step into the role,’ he says. ‘At a time when 70 per cent of school leaders will reach retirement age within 2-3 years, we are ignoring a looming national crisis.’

Participants in the 2018 study

The 2365 participants in the 2018 study came from government, Catholic and independent schools across the country. The majority (58.5 per cent) work in primary schools, while 26.3 per cent were from secondary, 13.3 per cent were from Kinder/Primary-Year 12, 1 per cent from Early Childhood and 1 per cent were from Special Schools. Ages of participants ranged from 26 to 81 years.

By taking part in the survey, each participant received a comprehensive, individual report from their own survey responses. The principals and deputy or assistant principals who completed the survey received interactive feedback through a dedicated secure website, affording them instant health and wellbeing check-ups tailored to their specific work context.

Results from the 2018 study

Offensive behaviour

Instances of physical violence towards principals jumped from 27 per cent in 2011 to 37 per cent in 2018. Female school leaders are most at risk of physical violence with 40 per cent experiencing violence compared to 32 per cent of male school leaders.

Overall, this means that Australian school leaders experience actual physical violence 9.3 times the rate of the general population.

‘Australia’s school leaders experience a far higher rate of offensive behaviour at work than the general population,’ Riley says. ‘The steadily increasing levels of offensive behaviour in schools of all types is a disgrace and it needs to stop.’

Work hours

While the standard working week in Australia is an average of 38 hours, 53 per cent of principals work more than 56 hours per week during the school term, while 24 per cent work more than 61-65 hours per week. During school holidays, 40 per cent of principals worked more than 25 hours per week.

‘The survey found an overwhelming 99.7 per cent of principals worked hours far beyond those recommended for positive mental and physical health,’ the report reads.

Sources of stress

The survey found that the quantity of work and the lack of time to focus on teaching and learning were the two greatest sources of principals’ stress. Teacher shortages and managing the mental health of staff and students were two issues indentified by principals.

The study notes that one in three school leaders was identified as so distressed that their physical and mental health were seriously at risk.

‘When compared to the general population, principals report 1.5 times higher job demands, 1.6 times higher levels of burnout, 1.7 times higher stress symptoms, 2.2 times more difficulty sleeping, 1.3 times negative physical symptoms and 1.3 times more depressive symptoms,’ the report reads.


The report outlines several key recommendations to improve working conditions for school leaders. According to Riley, one way would be to have Australia adopt a whole-of-government approach to education.

‘This would mean the federal government, states and territories combine to oversee a single education budget. The funding agreement should be bipartisan and a transparent mechanism which is simple to understand,’ he says.

What employers can do

The report recommends that employers take the moral choice of reducing job demands for principals, or increase resources to cope with increased demands. Furthermore, it recommends employers leave the mechanisms for producing the best educators to the educators. It is believed both of these things will increase social capital.

What schools can do

Schools are recommended to increase their internal social capital by studying schools that have already achieved high levels of social capital in spite of the current conditions. The report says that rapid dissemination of how they have achieved this will contribute to significant improvement in schools with low levels of social capital, but reminds leaders that each school needs to do this in relation to their resources and particular contexts.

What educators can do

Several recommendations are made to individual school leaders to look after their own health and wellbeing. The report recommends that school leaders:

  • Increase personal capital (social, human and decisional).
  • Respectfully speak back when faced with ‘moral harassment’.
  • Ensure your passions are harmonious. For example, love your work but do not let it dominate your life or become obsessive about it.
  • Take responsibility for your personal work-life balance.

What the community can do

Finally, the report suggests that the wider community has a role to play in improving conditions for school leaders. It suggest that the community actively supports its local school and works to stop all offensive behaviour directed at school leaders.

‘This is beyond debate. It simply must stop,’ the report reads. ‘The real issue is how to achieve this outcome. The steadily increasing levels of offensive behaviour across the country in schools of all types should give us pause.

‘But this is not just occurring in schools, with increases noted in all frontline professions and domestic violence rates that we should be nationally ashamed about. Australia needs to have an adult conversation about the root causes of this and set about addressing them at every level of society.’


Riley, P. (2019). The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey: 2018 Data.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Violence in schools

One in three school principals were physically attacked last year and almost half were threatened with violence, prompting the lead researcher in a national study to warn that violence in schools is "out of control".

Education shopping

School choice might be good for the individual, but education experts have warned it can have an adverse impact on society more broadly by lowering education performance of children across the board.

Grattan Institute school education program director, Peter Goss, told The Sydney Morning Herald Schools Summit this week that a disadvantaged student who also goes to a disadvantaged school "performs about two years worse by year 10".

"For individuals it varies. At a society-wide level the education outcomes are bad," Dr Goss said.

"It drags down the average. It reinforces educational disadvantage and potentially weakens the social fabric.

Dr Goss said choice is often linked with competition and ... that only those who do better will survive. But competition was not working "to lift all boats".

"It is a really messy part of our system and one that is not going away," Dr Goss said.

Bryce Grant, principal of Asquith Boys High School on Sydney's Upper North Shore, told the forum that his school's biggest competition was the local co-educational school.

"But I think choice is a good thing," he said.

"Coming through our school [parents and students] will see we we have to offer... a niche in the market.

"If they come to us and they are not happy with what we have to offer, then they do have that choice to go to a co-educational school."

Chris Presland, president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council said the question was whether real choice of schools really existed for all families.

"In theory I have a choice between a Maserati and a Hyundai, but I don't have the resources to exercise that choice," he said.

"When you talk about choice for parents in terms of the school that they send their children to, it is subject to all sorts of constraints."

Mr Presland said in Finland, "the best school is the nearest school".

"There are no special schools. They work really hard to ensure they have equitable outcomes for everyone," he said.

Mr Presland said Finland had high levels of equity and high levels of education performance.

"In Australia, we are at the other end of the scale. We are very high performing system but very

Andrea Connell, principal of the selective Sydney Girls High School said she agreed with Mr Presland that true choice was not available to all families.

"School shopping indicates there is a price," she said. "This is not available to all families and until that opportunity is, then I think we are facing this quite vexed problem."

Friday, 22 February 2019

Well done Canberra

Chaplains will be banned from Canberra's public schools from the end of the year in a move that goes beyond federal Labor policy to allow a choice of religious or secular workers.

Key points:

  • No more chaplains will be allowed to work in Canberra public schools from next year
  • Those currently employed will be forced to work in a secular capacity
  • The ACT's chaplain community has condemned the move

The School Chaplaincy community has slammed the decision, saying it is "removing choice from parents", and it is "ludicrous" to keep current chaplains on in non-secular roles.

The ACT's Education Minister, Yvette Berry, said on Friday there would be "no more chaplains in ACT government schools" after a decision to end the National School Chaplaincy Program in public schools after 2019.

Currently, the territory's schools can voluntarily opt in to the federal program, which provides up to $20,000 in funding for chaplains.

However, under the Coalition Government the workers must have a religious affiliation.

Ms Berry said the ACT education act mandated that the territory's public education sector was secular.

From a state school not a private.

Tamil Sri Lankan-born Australian Yasodai Selvakumaran has been named a finalist for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize.Australian actor Hugh Jackman did the honours, announcing the list of 10 from a field of 10,000 applicants spanning 179 countries.The actor known for his role as Wolverine in X-Men said teachers are “the real superheroes…the ones that change the world.”


Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Labor plans

A Shorten Labor Govt will invest $30 million to establish a National Principals Academy.

Training will be available to current and aspiring school principals, as well as other school leaders.

Every school should have the resources to teach every child. No child should be turned away from their local school because the school feels it cannot provide adequately for the needs of that child.

Labor will increase funding for students with disability by $300 million.

Our commitment is in addition to the disability loading included as part of needs based school funding.

Schools to choose if they want a secular social worker (instead of a chaplain) under Labor

An additional $3.3 billion will be invested in public schools in the first three school years alone and public school parents can already look at the estimates for their school on our website: #fairgoforschools 

“Under the government’s formula, all private schools will reach or exceed their fair funding level, but no public school ever will.” - @tanya_plibersek today at NPC

Labor will deliver an extra $14bn for public schools - every child in every school will be better off under Labor.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

....and then there’s this

Dozens of Sydney independent schools in line to have their funding reduced will instead receive bonus payments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars this year from the federal government's private school funding package.

Oakhill College will receive almost $500,000, while St Scholastica's, Loreto Kirribilli and St Aloysius College will all get more than $350,000 in so-called low growth payments, according to figures released under Freedom of Information.

Under the needs-based funding reforms, over-paid independent schools should have their funding brought down to the Schooling Resource Standard benchmark over the next 10 years, and under-funded public schools should have their funding increased.

Lack of funding

Four out of five public school principals feel they lack the resources to properly educate students with disabilities, an Australian Education Union survey has found, raising fresh concerns about school funding.

The new figures from the AEU's latest survey of 7800 members reveal that 88 per cent of principals are redirecting funds from other areas of the school budget to help cater for children with disabilities.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Donnelly is an idiot

Dr Kevin Donnelly on school curriculums: We can’t teach Romeo and Juliet because it privileges heteronormativity.
It is identity politics on steroids, it is destroying what is most valuable to literature. 

What a moron!

Thursday, 7 February 2019


Victorian state school teachers and employees have received more than $112 million for workplace injuries over the past five years, with staff claiming for electric shocks, poisonings and parasites.

Mental health injuries made up almost 50 per cent of all WorkSafe claims by cost – or $52 million.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Stealing from the poor

Public schools stand to miss out on billions in funding thanks to special clauses in the long-term deals struck between the commonwealth and the states.

Last year the commonwealth struck long-term education funding agreements with every state and territory except Victoria, locking in place the amount of money to be spent on public and private schools.

But a new analysis of the agreements claims a special clause could cost government schools as much as $19bn between 2018 and 2027 by allowing states and territories to include funding for things like building maintenance in their overall contribution to the public sector.

In 2017 the former education minister, Simon Birmingham, passed his Gonski 2.0 reforms, which required states to lift their overall funding to public schools to at least 75% of what’s known as the School Resourcing Standard by 2023.

The SRS is the Gonski review’s needs-based formula for measuring how much government funding each school is entitled to.

When the SRS was first developed it explicitly excluded items such as the cost of capital, depreciation, transport costs and umbrella services, such as each state’s board of studies.

But in September Guardian Australia revealedthat state and territory governments were planning to use the commonwealth’s deal with the private and independent school sectors to push back against the way its funding commitments for public schools were calculated.

And the long-term bilateral agreements struck between the commonwealth and every state and territory except Victoria late last year show the original definition of the SRS has been railroaded to allow states and territories to include “extra expenditure items” as up to 4% of their total SRS.

It means that every state and territory bar the ACT is able to partially count expenditure explicitly excluded from the original definition of the School Resourcing Standard as part of their overall education budget.

Each state’s agreement is different, meaning they’re able to claim different expenditure as part of the deal.

In New South Wales, for example, the state’s education standards authority and capital depreciation costs are able to be partially taken into account in its SRS calculation.

Rob Stokes, the state’s education minister, said it “does not impact on the $6.4bn in additional funding for NSW government schools”.

“Unlike some states, NSW will only include expenditure that directly relates to public education in this 4%, including NESA (the proportion that serves public schools) and capital depreciation,” he said. “This funding is real additional money and will be delivered in full.”

In Western Australia, direct school transport, capital depreciation, kindergarten expenditure and all regulatory funding associated with the state’s school curriculum authority can be included in the 4% SRS allowance.

The Australian Capital Territory is the only state or territory which does not include the 4% exemption in its bilateral agreement with the commonwealth.

According to a new analysis by Cobbold, the “additional” expenditure items could cost public schools $19bn in the decade after the agreement if the states and territories claim the full 4% exemption.

And the same expenditure cannot be used to count against the state’s contribution to private schools.

“Only public schools are being defrauded by this sleight of hand in the bilateral agreements,” Cobbold writes in his analysis.

“The allowance for state governments to substitute other expenditures for actual increases in recurrent funding as defined for the SRS does not apply to private schools. Yet, private schools benefit from capital funding by state governments, school transport funding and regulatory and standards authorities funded by the states.”

Published on Thursday, Cobbold’s analysis shows public schools could be short-changed to the tune of $60bn over the decade to 2027.

Cobbold estimates that if the deals remain in place until 2027, it could mean a “cumulative” loss of $41bn for the public sector.

“Public schools are being defrauded by school funding agreements finalised at the end of last year between the commonwealth and the state and territory governments,” Cobbold writes in the paper.

“Public schools in all states except the ACT will only ever be funded at 95% of their School Resourcing Standard at best, and likely less.

“In contrast, private schools in all states except the Northern Territory are guaranteed funding at 100% or more of their SRS by 2023.

“The agreements are heavily biased against public schools and in favour of private schools.”

Monday, 4 February 2019

Morrison short changes our schools

Fewer public schools will reach full funding within the next five years as a result of the latest bilateral deals, while almost all private schools will get their share or more, an analysis by the Australian Education Union has found.

After the new round of agreements between states and the Commonwealth late last year, just over 1per cent of public schools - those in the ACT - will be fully funded to the Schooling Resource Standard benchmark (SRS) by 2023.

That would be about 12 per cent fewer than predicted two years ago, the union's analysis found.

AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said the states were left struggling to meet expensive targets because federal government refused to contribute any more than 20 per cent to the cost of running state schools.


“The impact of the Morrison government’s public school funding cuts is far worse than we thought when the school funding legislation was passed in 2017,” Ms Haythorpe said.

However, a spokesman for Education Minister Dan Tehan said the federal government was providing more than $300 billion for all schools.

When funding reform laws passed in 2017, about 13 per cent of public schools - those run by Western Australia and the ACT - were expected to reach 100 per cent of the SRS by the end of the five-year agreement.

But under the latest round of bilateral agreements signed at the end of last year, Western Australia would not meet its target as soon as originally predicted, the AEU said, meaning only the ACT is expected to reach its full share of the SRS by 2023.

The AEU will launch a new campaign on school funding on Monday, targeting marginal electorates around Australia before the federal election, expected in May.

Ms Haythorpe called on the federal government to use the April 2 budget to boost public school funding. “[Prime Minister Scott] Morrison has made it clear that public schools are not a priority for his government. Public schools deserve better treatment than this.”

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Our government's priorities

Australian Federal Government spending in 2014-15:

🏫 Public schools: $5.2bn

💰 Being the only country in the world that sends tax refunds to shareholders who haven’t paid any tax: $5.9bn

Friday, 1 February 2019

Pressure on Prins. Nothing changes

The Principal Workload and Time Use Study, which was prepared by Deloitte on behalf of the NSW Department of Education, was released late last year. The study was prompted by emerging evidence suggesting that the NSW government school community was increasingly concerned about principal workload.

Keep reading or scroll down to hear some personal stories from our community about the positive impact of principals.

The findings will probably not come as a surprise to anyone working in schools. Here are a few key statistics:

  • Based on observations, principals on average undertook 45 activities during a school day, with 28 of these activities being unique.
  • 75% of principals reported their workload is ‘difficult to achieve’ or ‘not at all achievable’.
  • 77% of principals reported their workload is ‘difficult to sustain’ or ‘not at all sustainable’.
  • Principal time is spent as: 30% on leading teaching and learning, 9% on developing self and others, 6% on leading improvement, innovation and change, 40% on leading the management of the school, 11% on engaging and working with the community, and 3% on other activities.

In this context, the following stories seem even more extraordinary. I’m sure many of you have seen the story of Krystal Stanley, the dynamic Principal of a small outback school in Queensland driving her students to school. However this is far from an isolated case of principals going the extra mile for their community.

When School Stream asked for stories about school principals who made a difference in the lives of their school community, we were overwhelmed by the response. Here are a few examples that highlight the significant impact of principals in the lives of students, business managers and parents.

From a six-year old Primary School Student in Melbourne’s North West:

“After my mum died the school principal drove me to school every day for six months”.

From a Business Manager in the Goldfields region of Victoria:

“Great school principals recognise their best assets – not funding nor buildings and grounds, but their people. I worked in a run-down 1800’s school with peeling walls, terrible facilities and jaded staff BUT with a Principal of vision, commitment and energy who galvanised those who shared his passion and left behind those who didn’t (in spite of his efforts to bring them on the journey.) The school became a state leader in curriculum and renewed facilities. The Principal was a true communicator.”

From the parent of a child at school in the Brisbane:

“Our school Principal is always in the playground at drop off and pick up time. Every single day. It might not sound that profound, but knowing I can talk to him if I have any issues is such a relief. And somehow, he remembers everybody’s name.”

If the stories we heard are any indication, it would seem an inclination towards going above and beyond is not uncommon among school principals, wherever they may be based.

It’s a busy time of year for schools and we hope Principals, Teachers, Business Managers, Administration teams and all those who keep schools thriving are looking toward a relaxing and restorative summer holiday. You deserve it.

Here’s the link to the study.