In June, the State of the Sector Report found that one of the top priorities for principals is in managing the wellbeing of their staff and students.
And given the findings of previous surveys of school leaders, this should come as no surprise.
The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2018 found that increasing threats, violence and excessive working hours have been leading to serious distress, burnout and depression among the nation’s principals.
Reports also reveal students’ mental health on the decline. According to Yourtown, an organisation helping young people improve their quality of life, a quarter of all counselling sessions now have to do with mental health concerns and one in ten are a young person presenting with an undiagnosed mental illness.
Now, in a sector first, principals from across Australia will now have access to rigorous, data-driven insights that will enable them to keep a firm finger on the pulse of staff and student wellbeing.
The new online platform, developed by PeopleBench, is described by Chief Education Officer Paul Easton as a “fitbit for a school’s workforce”.
“We’re giving principals the chance to track their school’s data and analyse it against a range of data sets,” Easton said.
This includes all participating schools across Australia, customised peer groups of similar schools or the top performing schools based on student outcomes.”
Easton said the overarching goal is to give schools the data, and the confidence, to make well-informed decisions about their own workforce anytime, anywhere.
“This will enable them to better understand and evolve their own workforces,” he said.
“When it comes to leadership, we found principals are optimistic about the future of school workforces but without research and benchmarks they are making decisions in the dark knowing which levers to pull to improve overall workforce performance.”
He said the PeopleBench platform enables them to identify these, and ultimately drive more autonomy to make decisions that provide the greatest impact on student outcomes.
‘A community of practice’
According to the company’s CEO, Fleur Johnston, PeopleBench offers the opportunity for schools and school system leaders to join a Community of Practice where they can collaborate and access research which contributes to informing better workforce strategy decisions.
“PeopleBench is focused on improving school outcomes at a whole-of-sector level in Australia,” Johnston said.
“School leaders should be empowered to discreetly compare their workforces to their relevant peers so they can identify and celebrate their strengths and take advantage of opportunities for continuous improvement.”
As part of the online data and insights platform, PeopleBench has established an Advisory Committee, through the Community of Practice, which brings together key partners from education, human resources, information technology and communications disciplines.
“This group will play a vital role in ensuring that information from platform members and the needs of the community are realised in future research directions and development of the PeopleBench platform.”
Johnston said PeopleBench was looking to give the Australian education sector greater access to global, real-life data and insights with the vision of expanding internationally in the next 12 months.
“National data and insights are just the first step in equipping our school and education leaders with easy-to-access and independent information – imagine the possibilities for the learning outcomes of our students, if schools could look at and benchmark against schools around the world,” Johnston added.