Opinion: The scary side of teaching

Opinion: The scary side of teaching

Most of us wouldn’t consider teaching a dangerous profession. But in the next few weeks we expect data from the Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Well-being Survey 2015 to be released, and we expect the results to be shocking.

The previous survey, conducted over four years and completed in 2014, saw 2,621 principals and 1,024 deputy/assistant principals participating in the survey. Of these, about two thirds were primary school leaders and around 56% were women.

They were a hard working group with approximately 50% working more than 56 hours per week and 13% working in excess of 66 hours per week. During holidays the majority worked over 25 hours per week.

This information highlights that for the most part school leaders are educated and dedicated individuals.

They are in many ways responsible for the future of our country. And yet they continue to be treated with such disrespect in many instances.

The 2011-2014 study found that adult to adult bullying of school leaders occurred at four times the rate of the general population. Similarly, principals and assistant principals were five times more likely to experience threats of violence and seven times more likely to experience actual violence in their workplace.

Put simply, these are absolutely appalling statistics. We are talking about educated, dedicated, hard-working professionals, having chosen one of the most honourable professions with a desire to contribute to the education and development of the next generation.

Urgent recommendations surrounding these hostility issues towards leaders in schools were made in the final study report last year. Recommendation D suggested an urgent need to establish an independent authority to investigate these offensive and violent behaviours towards school leaders.

The 2014 report suggested the authority should investigate which types of principals and deputy principals are most at risk and why, what can be done to protect these leaders, whether increased risk to school leadership increases risk to teachers and students, and how improving information flow can lower risk.

This authority has not been established and these important questions have not been asked let alone answered. So here we are on the eve of the release of the 2015 report. What information will this next report highlight? What recommendations will be made and will any be the same as last year?

And will they again be ignored?

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.