Opinion: The bureaucracy of principal safety

Opinion: The bureaucracy of principal safety

The 2015 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey will be released soon.

We wait with anticipation to hear if principals are still experiencing unrelenting bullying by parents as was reported in the last survey completed in 2014.

It could be argued the most important question is why are parents losing control in our schools?

The 2014 report found adult to adult bullying of school leaders occurred at four times the rate of the general population, with actual physical violence occurring at seven times the national average.

In short, principals are being accosted by angry parents at a shocking frequency.

Recommendations in the final study report last year suggested the urgent need to establish an independent authority to investigate this threatening behaviour towards school leaders.

The previous report suggested the authority should investigate which types of principals and deputy principals are most at risk and why, and how improving information flow can lower risk.

These are two very important questions. The answers to these questions will help us understand why parents are unable to communicate in the school environment as well as they do outside it. We need to understand what situations create a risk for principals.

Are conflicts being caused by miscommunication?

Are parents frustrated by bureaucracy and processes?

Do principals need more autonomy over how they run their schools?

When you think about it, for the most part the majority of parents are simply trying to be their child’s advocate, and for the most part the majority of principals are simply trying to better the education of the next generation. So it stands to reason that many of the conflicts are happening between people who are otherwise contributing and functioning members of society.

Of course some parents might be completely unreasonable and some principals may operate like brick walls. But for the most part this would not be the case.

So the question of why this is happening needs to take priority to allow us to understand what needs to change in order to reduce the incidence of conflict in the future.

Understanding this piece of the puzzle should provide clarity on ways to reduce the occurrence of violent incidents between adults in schools.

Darren Stevenson – founder and MD of Extend Before and After School Care – has 25 years of experience as an educator in Australia and the UK, having served in five schools.