The rate of change in school autonomy and performance expectations for principals is out of step with the administrative burden being placed on school heads, principals have warned.
On Wednesday, a state principals association suggested that one “quick solution” to rising administrative workloads would be to create a CEO-like role to free up principals’ time.
“This role would need adjustment in the various acts [legislation] to give the CEO, under the direction of the principal, power to sign off on all things non-educational,” Ron Bamford, president of the Australian Principals Federation (APF) Western Australia branch, told The Educator.
However, in the absence of such a role to offset highly stressful multitasking, there are concerns the nation is likely to experience a further decline in the number of prospective principals taking up the role.
Paul Geyer, the CEO of Principals Australia Institute (PAI), told The Educator that more effort needs to be put into communicating and promoting the rewarding aspects of the role of principals.
“Schools are complex organisations. There are extraordinary expectations for a single person to lead and manage the full array of corporate functions in a school community,” he said.
“Within the profession, recognition of high quality principals and the leadership they provide to schools and local communities needs to be stepped up so that experienced principals are recognised by their peers.
Geyer said non-teaching leadership roles in schools need to be explored to alleviate the imbalance, adding the rising level of violence towards teaching staff and principals should be of greater concern to the community.
“Professional learning about conflict resolution for teachers and principals will assist with crises,” he said, adding that protocols and advice for parents on when and how to engage with schools through their child’s education journey would help to address this issue.
“While there is good work being undertaken in this area, its uptake is mixed and lacks a holistic and flexible approach to implementation in a school,” he said.
Geyer acknowledged the challenge in attracting the next generation of teachers to aspire to the role of principal, saying teachers – upon considering the complexity and extended hours of the role – are likely to conclude that the salary level is too low.
“The remuneration of the principal’s role needs to be benchmarked to leadership roles in entities outside the education sector. Another significant component in the analysis of the role of the principal relates to wellbeing in the workplace,” he said.
“Principals must maintain their own health and wellbeing to sustain their role, as well as provide for the wellbeing and emotional health and safety of teachers and students.”
A ‘clear and strategic response’
Geyer said the Australia Principal Certification, being rolled out by the PAI, was “a clear and strategic response” to the issues facing principals in contemporary schools.
“The role of the principal is both rewarding and complex. In order for it to be recognised and an aspiration, we have a professional responsibility to talk about it and acknowledge the challenges whilst also sharing and celebrating the highlights and benefits of leadership in schools,” he said.
“At the PAI, we are working with school leaders to implement the certification as the way to recognise the central importance of the principal. This will also demonstrate evidence of the Australian Principal Standard in practice, and the impact of a principal’s leadership.”
Geyer said that evidence of leadership and its impact would provide those aspiring to leadership positions with clear exemplars of what it means to be a school leader, what the role entails and the need for continuous improvement and professional learning.
“Engaging in Principal Certification is a powerful self-reflective process – a by-product of which is an increased understanding of self, one’s learning and wellbeing needs and pathways for improvement. This type of reflection is critical for leadership growth,” he said.
“The PAI’s Certification program recognises that the leadership provided by principals directly impacts on the work of teachers and the conditions for learning in schools, and outcomes for all students.”