What’s being done to support teachers and principals in 2024?

What’s being done to support teachers and principals in 2024?

As initial teacher education enrolments decline and fewer new teachers graduate, there are growing calls for the school workforce supply issue to become an immediate government priority.

However, attracting new teachers is only part of the problem – keeping them in the profession is equally important.

This is becoming increasingly difficult as intense workloads, emotional demands, and regular incidents of violence push many – especially new teachers – out of the job. A look at the toll these factors are taking on the profession is sobering to say the least.

According to Mental Health Foundation Australia, more than 50% of Australian teachers suffer from anxiety, and nearly one-fifth from depression.

Meanwhile, an alarming 47.8% of principals are triggering “red flag” alerts (generated when school leaders are at risk of self-harm, occupational health problems or serious impact on their quality of life), raising concerns over the health of Australia’s leadership pipeline.

Fortunately, work is being done to address these serious issues and ensure that both teachers and leaders, old and new, feel more supported in their jobs.

For the last two years, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has been with the Queensland Department of Education to develop professional standards for middle leaders through state-wide trials.

“These trials have been validated through a survey with the profession, and from what the results show, they’re a good set of standards that accurately represent the work that middle leaders are doing, and that they find useful to work with,” AITSL’s acting CEO, Edmund Misson told The Educator.  

“So, this really fills a gap that we've had in the standards framework between the teacher standards and the Australian professional standard for principals where middle leaders couldn't really see themselves or had to take bits from each standard to find something that represented their practice.”

Misson said the new professional standards will be particularly helpful for both middle leaders and senior leaders when it comes to self-reflection, goal setting and targeted professional learning.

To help new principals adjust to their role, AITSL has also developed and published guidelines for the induction of new school leaders in Australia.

“These guidelines have been agreed by all education ministers under the national teacher workforce action plan and were designed to really give an evidence base on how to support people as they step into to the role of school leader, because we know that can be a difficult transition,” Misson said.

“This is in addition to guidelines for the induction of new teachers. Although those are directly targeted at supporting school leaders, I think they will make the job of school leaders easier by giving them guidance in that important area.”

Misson said AITSL is also working with schools under the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan to better support the role of teaching assistants in Australian schools.

“It’s about helping principals with the complex management tasks they undertake on a daily basis, and making sure that all school staff are focused on the right things and doing the things that they're best suited to do,” he said.

Misson said while the annual Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) annual Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Surveys have highlighted serious issues that school leaders continue to grapple with, it’s also crucial to recognise that principal ship can be a very rewarding job.

“Principals love their work, and they love being in the teaching profession, so we need to look at how we can better support them, because it is such a complex job,” Misson said.

“School leaders often go above and beyond the responsibilities of what we think is their job and act as inspirational community leaders.”

Misson said it is unfortunate that the times this is most visible is usually when there has been some sort of tragedy or great difficulty within their community.

“When school leaders can take that community leadership role, it's very impressive and very inspiring.