New report reveals alarming data on student wellbeing, teacher shortages

New report reveals alarming data on student wellbeing, teacher shortages

Australian principals are dealing with record increases in student mental health issues, school refusal, and occupational violence, according to new research.

The nationwide survey of independent, Catholic and government schools, conducted by Ideagen in association with its publication School Governance, found a staggering 98% of educators reported an increase in student mental health issues, with school refusal rates more than tripling over the past year from 6% in 2023 to 21% in 2024.

The report also found Australia’s school system continues to experience widespread staff shortages, with 92% of respondents saying they had significant difficulties in attracting and retaining staff, while 97% reported being severely impacted by workload concerns.

David Griffiths, Vice President, Compliance at Ideagen said in the short term, school leaders could address the challenge of staff attrition by re-evaluating and enhancing compensation packages to be more competitive. 

“Providing enriching professional development opportunities can also help retain staff by nurturing their career growth,” Griffiths told The Educator. “Equally important is establishing a positive, supportive work culture that values teachers' well-being and ensures improved work-life balance.”

Speaking on the sharp rise in student mental health issues and school refusal rates, Griffiths said this signals a need to reassess current student well-being programs. 
“Schools should work towards enhancing mental health support services, which includes early intervention and a concentrated focus on building a positive school environment,” he said. “Furthermore, staff training on the recognition and management of mental health issues can help create a more supportive platform for students to seek aid.”

In addition to navigating a worsening youth mental health crisis, schools are also dealing with an uptick in occupational violence, with instances surging from 7% last year to 17% this year, indicating heightened risks to staff safety.

More than half of the respondents (54%) said they see “a substantial need” for improvement in their current risk management systems, and 90% are preparing to enhance their governance, risk and compliance frameworks within the next year to deal with the challenges they’re facing.

“As we navigate these challenging times, it is crucial for the education sector to come together and prioritise the safety and well-being of our students and staff,” Griffiths said.