10 ways to improve support for teachers and principals

10 ways to improve support for teachers and principals

There’s no denying that teaching and leading in 2023 is a tough slog, but the sheer scope of responsibilities and demands involved in these roles often goes unappreciated by society at large, and this has led many in the profession to feel unappreciated and unsupported.

For school leaders, the most recent national survey of the profession’s health and wellbeing reveals principals are working an average of 56 hours a week under the toughest conditions they’ve seen in more than a decade.

An alarming 47.8% of principals triggered "red flag" alerts (generated when school leaders are at risk of self-harm, occupational health problems or serious impact on their quality of life) – a staggering 64% increase from 2022.

Teachers are also leaving the profession in droves, citing high workloads, low pay and declining status. More worryingly, fewer people are deciding to take up teaching as a profession to begin with. Recent data reveals that high school graduates taking up education degrees declined by 20% in 2023 compared to last year – the lowest rate since 2016.

Pasi Sahlberg is a Finnish educator, scholar, thought leader and author who has studied education systems and advised education system reforms around the world. Currently Professor of Educational Leadership at University of Melbourne, he is part of the Federal Government’s expert panel that will advise State and Territory Education Ministers on the key targets and specific reforms that should be tied to funding in the next National School Reform Agreement.

Drawing from his extensive experience in education, Professor Sahlberg shares 10 ways that schools, families and other key education stakeholders can help teachers and leaders thrive in 2023, and beyond.

  1. Reduce the administrative burden: Stakeholders, including policymakers and administrators, can work to reduce the administrative burden on teachers and principals.
  2. Streamline paperwork: Minimizing bureaucratic requirements, and automating administrative tasks can free up valuable time for educators to focus on teaching and learning.
  3. Professional development: Offer ongoing professional development opportunities that are relevant and tailored to the needs of educators. Training in areas such as technology integration, classroom management, and mental health support can empower educators to perform their roles more effectively.
  4. Mental health and wellbeing support: Recognize and address the mental health and well-being of educators. Providing access to counseling services, stress management programs, and strategies for work-life balance can help educators manage the pressures of their profession.
  5. Collaborative communities: Encourage the development of professional learning communities where educators can collaborate, share best practices, and support one another. These communities can provide valuable insights and emotional support. Stakeholders, including teacher associations and advocacy groups, can also work together to advocate for policies that support educators and provide necessary resources for their professional growth.
  6. Parental engagement: Foster positive relationships between schools and parents while setting clear boundaries to manage parental requests and expectations effectively. Open communication channels can lead to more constructive partnerships.
  7. Flexible work arrangements: Consider offering flexible work arrangements, such as part-time teaching or remote teaching options, to accommodate the diverse needs of educators, including those with families or other responsibilities.
  8. Curriculum and assessment review: Continuously assess and update the curriculum and assessment methods to reduce unnecessary workload and promote effective teaching and learning.
  9. Technology integration: Provide educators with the necessary training and support to effectively integrate technology, including AI, into their teaching methods. This can enhance productivity and improve educational outcomes.
  10. Listening to educators: Encourage open and regular feedback from educators about their needs, challenges, and ideas for improvement. Actively involve educators in decision-making processes.

“In summary, supporting educators and school leaders requires a holistic approach that addresses their professional, emotional, and practical needs,” Professor Sahlberg said.

“By reducing unnecessary burdens, providing ongoing professional development, and fostering a collaborative and supportive environment, stakeholders can help educators thrive in their roles and contribute to positive educational outcomes.”