Jason Clare flags national action on school leader wellbeing

Jason Clare flags national action on school leader wellbeing

Education Minister Jason Clare has committed to urgent action to support the occupational, health, safety and wellbeing of Australia's school leaders, in response to alarming new research.

Speaking at the ASPA 2024 National Education Summit, Minister Clare said that he would put the issue of sustaining and retaining school principals on the agenda for the next Education Ministers' Meeting. 

The commitment follows the recent release of the latest Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey, which found that more than half of the nation's school leaders are considering quitting or retiring early due to stress, and increasingly unsustainable workloads.

Australian Secondary Principals' Association (ASPA) President Andy Mison welcomed the Minister's commitment as an important step.

"We have been sounding the alarm on this issue for over a decade now, so it is very pleasing to see it finally getting the attention it deserves at a national level," Mison told The Educator.

“Our school leaders are highly resilient, and do the job because they love it, and want the best for our kids. We can’t take that for granted.”

A bold plan to save Australia’s beleaguered principals

ASPA is proposing a sixth priority area – titled: ‘Retain and Sustain our Principals’ – to be added to the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan. The proposed measures include ongoing monitoring of principals' health and wellbeing; a review of workloads and administrative responsibilities; and an investment in the administrative staff and systems in Australia’s’ schools.

Other key proposals include greater powers for principals to respond to violence and unsafe behaviour; tailored training and development programs; appropriate remuneration frameworks that reflect the complexity of the role; and quarantining funds from other agencies such as Health and Community Services to support school communities.

Mison said Minister Clare indicated that the issue of greater supports for principals would be raised with his State and Territory counterparts on the agenda at an upcoming Education Ministers' Meeting, with “a view to incorporating such strategies into the next National School Reform Agreement.”

“The National Education Summit brought together education stakeholders from across the country to tackle issues including school funding and the equity gap in Australian Schools, and the future of secondary education,” he said.

“Along with discussions on sustaining and retaining school leaders, there was strong support and hope for successful negotiations expressed for fully funding public schools; for an ongoing nationally funded school infrastructure fund; and for the introduction of measures and reporting on social segregation in and between schools.”

It’s time to turn words into actions

NSW Secondary Principals Council president, Craig Petersen said he felt a sense of “incredible appreciation” following the Minister’s announcement, saying Jason Clare “has a genuine desire to improve education” and “understands the complexities that leaders in public education are facing”.

“The Minister has shown a commitment to try and take concrete actions that will improve student outcomes, and recognises the critical interplay between the wellbeing of both teaching and non-teaching staff as well,” Petersen told The Educator.

“There will certainly be an outpouring of appreciation from the profession if the Minister can actually follow through on this commitment.”

Petersen said the focus is now on whether Federal, State and Territory governments can turn words into actions.

“The commitment was to take this plan to the next Education Ministers Meeting, which is due to take place this month. So, what we also need is not just the Federal Minister, but for all the State and Territory ministers to get on board and make this happen.”