A high-level Australian education survey says “we should be nationally ashamed” of steadily increasing rates of offensive behaviour in schools and other frontline professions, as well as domestic violence, the Catholic Leader reports.
“Australia needs to have an adult conversation about the root causes of this behaviour and set about addressing them at every level of society,” the newly-released Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2019 said.
The survey of school principals reveals nearly one in three faced stress and burnout from their jobs including high levels of threats and physical violence by parents and students.
“Offensive behaviour simply must stop. The real issue is how to achieve this outcome,” the survey said.
Queensland principals reported greater levels of burnout, stress, sleeping trouble and depressive symptoms than in any other states.
However, the survey authors offer a note of optimism for school leaders, suggesting the mass disruptions to school and home life during COVID-19 could trigger a welcome uplift in community appreciation for the ongoing and unforeseen challenges faced by principals.
The annual survey was completed prior to the catastrophic bushfires, floods and COVID-19 pandemic that have marked the start of 2020, by researchers from the Australian Catholic University and Deakin University.
Deakin’s Professor Phil Riley said the national school shutdown from COVID-19 restrictions had reminded communities of the vital role school leaders played.
“The sudden changes to education delivery prompted by COVID-19 restrictions required an unprecedented response by school leaders to roll-out remote learning opportunities for their students,” Professor Riley said.
“We know from anecdotal evidence that many parents, although impacted themselves, are deeply appreciative of this work by principals and educators.
“We hope this points to a future in which there is greater awareness and acknowledgement of the many stresses and challenges that principals face on a regular basis as they lead their students and staff.”