New employment data from SEEK revealed vacancies for school management jobs spiked 256% over the past year – but are there enough applicants to fill them?
While the figures show that demand is certainly increasing for applicants, it may also indicate a looming shortage of principals.
Australian Principals Federation (APF) president, Julie Podbury, told The Educator that a staffing void was being created through principals who are – and soon will be – retiring from the job.
“It is no surprise that there is a job [advertisement] spike, because the age group of the majority of principals reaching retirement in 2015-16 will leave a massive shortfall and few are lining up to replace them,” Podbury told The Educator.
Prospective applicants also hold concerns about the impact the demanding role could have on their own well-being, she added.
“It is a very difficult role, and insufficiently paid for its incredible and complex demands. In general terms it is a role that many will shy away from if they value their well-being,” Podbury said.
Western Australia Primary Principals’ Association (WAPPA) president, Stephen Breen, said a principal shortage in his state was due to the reluctance of applicants to take on workloads that have left many others burnt-out.
“Research led by Dr Philip Riley at the Monash University has shown that principals’ health and wellbeing is suffering as a result of the work pressures,” Breen told The Educator, adding that measures need to be taken to make the role more appealing.
“Job demands are increasing, while resources are decreasing. School leaders are doing a fantastic job, however there are strategies that need to be implemented to make the profession sustainable and to make school leadership more attractive.”
In South Australia, a principal is paid only $4,626 a year more than a teacher on a step 9 salary rate.
However, Peter Mader, president of the South Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (SASPA) said the shortage in his stage was more to do with workload.
“The shortage of principal aspirants in SA is largely to do with workload and work complexity,” Mader told The Educator.
In New Zealand, principals are being offered financial incentives to fill vacant positions in hard-to-staff schools.
The Principal Recruitment Allowance Scheme (PRAS) offers a $50,000 a year increase on top of principals’ existing salary, and is being spruiked in an attempt to fill vacancies in hard-to-staff schools.
Kimi Ora Community School’s limited statutory manager, Kevin Palmer, told Radio New Zealand the recruitment allowance had greatly helped the school’s appointment process.
"The availability of the principal recruitment allowance certainly meant that the experience,” Palmer said.
“The number and calibre of the applicants were probably greater than I might normally expect for what is a small school that has been under statutory management.”
The nation’s Education Ministry has the final say on whether or not the prospective principal qualifies for the allowance. The Ministry’s New Appointments National Panel chairperson, Prue Kelly, said the allowance appeared to be helping schools to attract more candidates.
"The schools are getting a bigger field of people applying. The allowance is certainly attracting people to smaller schools that may have had trouble attracting applicants previously," Kelly said.
However, New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF) president, Denise Torrey, has criticised the scheme, warning that “more money in a principal’s pocket” would not improve student learning or make a better principal.