What are the biggest looming challenges for principals?

What are the biggest looming challenges for principals?

School principals are pivotal to the effective management of schools – a crucial role in society. However, the pressures of the job can often take a terrible toll on these leaders.

The latest Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey found 99.7% of principals work hours far beyond those recommended for positive mental and physical health.

As a result, the nation’s school leaders are experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety and burnout, and this alarming trend has led some principals to publicly speak out about the Department’s perceived lack of action to address the issue.

In October, Professor Phil Riley – the academic behind the annual surveys – will again bring this issue to the fore, presenting an overview spanning nine years of principal health and wellbeing research across four countries and more than 10,000 participating school leaders.

The presentation is part of The School Leaders Challenge, organised by Deakin University’s strategic research centre in education, Research for Educational Impact (REDI).

A former school principal, Professor Riley spent 16 years working in schools before moving to the tertiary sector, where he researches the overlapping space of psychology, education and leadership.

Professor Riley said the talk will centre on some current and looming challenges that leaders will need grapple with both in Australia and internationally.

“The challenge that moral purpose, that a lot of leaders are driven by, creates the conditions for moral stress in the current educational/political/ideological battle environment they are operating in,” Professor Riley told The Educator.

Professor Riley also highlighted the need to make – and keep – the profession attractive.

“We need to find ways to maintain control of the drivers of educational improvement when education globally is moving from a public good to a private good.”

He added that education is increasingly being seen as a for profit business.

“Strong counter-arguments must be identified to combat the push for a one-size-fits-all approaches to educational improvement.”

Riley said the presentation will conclude with some recent positive responses to these research findings, addressing some aspects of moral stress and some exciting possibilities to harness and accelerate these changes into the future.