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Department ‘negligent’ in duty of care to principals

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Brett Henebery | 13 Jan 2015, 10:28 AM Agree 0
In what ways do you think education bodies and schools can help prevent tragedies like this from occurring in future?
  • JoeCitizen | 14 Jan 2015, 11:09 AM Agree 0
    Yes, schools and their staff are overburdened with increased class-sizes and workloads as it is, but a little care and sympathy to those who are struggling can go a long way. What is lacking as much as funding is compassion from the top-tier. Principals are not just disposable worker bees, they are the facilitators of school leadership/management, trying to contribute as best they can to a bright future for our children.
    Take better care of them.
  • Maydoh | 14 Jan 2015, 11:24 AM Agree 0
    This is an inevitable consequence of "modern" education. The apparent importance of things such as NAPLAN scores is destroying the notion of educating the whole person. As well, a growing number of parents from all socio-economic groups expect schools will do the parenting ie be the "bad guy" while these parents pander to their children. Inevitably, there is a disconnect there that can become quite serious. hen we get threatened school staff. It is just far too easy for senior education administrations, who, if they have an education background it was most probably in an easier time, to demand school leaders take on a societal problem by themselves.
  • FrustratedPrincipal | 14 Jan 2015, 12:42 PM Agree 0
    My school and myself were physically and verbally threatened on several occasions. The appropriate actions were put in place by the school to emergency management. Alerts went out but NOT ONE person from the centre or region contacted me. Message was sent to the Wellbeing team.....they didn't get back to support! Not good enough.
  • Ur not alone | 14 Jan 2015, 05:35 PM Agree 0
    As principal it is an ongoing challenge to effectively manage serious incidents so that teachers are supported and confident to teach well and to keep yourself safe and well. Having experienced significant verbal and Facebook attacks and threats this year from shabby (and drug affected) parents I found it really difficult some days to front up with the energy to lead well. However, I made use of networks and the free counselling offered through my employer to make sense of my experience and feelings. Sadly more and more of my colleagues experience really tough times and so in that sense another support network is born and strategies can be shared. Importantly I know I am not in this on my own. This issue does need to be more systemically, timely and appropriately responded to at a system level however and 'selling this job' to aspiring leaders is becoming more difficult.
  • Lonely Role | 15 Jan 2015, 01:19 AM Agree 0
    Having been a Principal for over twelve years now I would have to say that the pressures and expectations of the Principal's role continue to increase each year. I have noticed an increase in the past couple of years of parents causing extreme stress on school leaders. Some parents feel they have the right to be verbally aggressive towards school leaders, and place unfair expectations on schools. There is just not the respect for school leaders as much as there was in the past from parents. Grappling with, and trying to reason with an aggressive parent, is usually a no win situation for a Principal. The role of a Principal is an extremely lonely role. It is usually not possible to share how you are really feeling with other staff, as you are supposed to be the strong one leading the way. Often there is no one to turn to for help.
  • Starting the year with optimism | 15 Jan 2015, 02:22 PM Agree 0
    Principalship has many rewards but the level of expectation on so many fronts does make it one of the most challenging jobs around. It would seem to me that increased autonomy in the state system is just code for moving any sort of controversy that may and will occur in schools further away from the Minister of the day and allows the system to say 'oh that was a school decision or choice' even when the over arching policies of the department made it the only decision that could have been made.
    • JoeCitizen | 23 Jan 2015, 01:44 PM Agree 0
      "It would seem to me that increased autonomy in the state system is just code for moving any sort of controversy that may and will occur in schools further away from the Minister of the day"

  • Time2retire | 19 Jan 2015, 10:12 AM Agree 0
    I agree with all the above comments. Especially the lonely at the top feel, although we meet with and talk with colleagues, we don't burden each other as we all have our own issues to deal with.
    The situation isnt helped by staff and parents thinking we are on 'super' wages as they do not understand how our Super comes out of our wage and theirs doesn't. Our pay scales should be printed as they actually are with the 9.5% taken out so they aren't constantly of the thought 'well you are paid the big bucks to deal with it, I'm not!'.
  • Concerned Principal | 19 Jan 2015, 12:58 PM Agree 0
    The Principal's role has become increasingly isolated as support structures and services have been removed or reduced over recent years. It seems that endless surveys into the health and well-being of Principals has not lead to improved support for Principals at all.
  • Catherine | 20 Jan 2015, 05:42 PM Agree 0
    It is a very relevant story however I feel that along with Principals there should be Preschool Directors. We have similar issues with parents and the pressure of our job with little time to complete our tasks given that we also have a full time teaching load.
    My thoughts are with the family who lost their loved one.
  • Maureen | 21 Jan 2015, 10:33 AM Agree 0
    I was abused and threatened by a parent and the Principal told me "I had to apologise in writing to the parent". For being sworn at or attempting to have a rational conversation about a child involved in bullying. Primcipals need to offer support to receive it.

    Deputy Principal
  • Carol spittles | 23 Jan 2015, 11:59 AM Agree 0
    Whilst I was Principal in old sydney south west region, I handled many difficult situations, I can say that each of the school education directors 9as they were then called) stood shoulder to shoulder with me, took over administrative tasks and allowed me to manage the situation giving advice when requested. My colleagues were always there to support any of us facing a crisis and good laughs flowed with their assistance. My partner has also been a great source of support. I will always be grateful to all their support and assistance. My advice build own support network and be honest with them, take a realistic stance about what you can do and have a work life balance.
  • | 23 Jan 2015, 03:11 PM Agree 0
    Principals should remember that they can turn to one another (and their associations) for support.
  • Reggie | 23 Jan 2015, 03:19 PM Agree 0
    It's such a terrible situation to be in. As the comments here show - we can lean on each other for support which is a great positive, but more still needs to be done.
  • Concerned | 23 Jan 2015, 03:54 PM Agree 0
    School principals are under more pressure than they have ever been before and have a huge responsibility trying to satisfy teachers, students and parents. It's very clear that they need more support.
  • A principals' advocate | 23 Jan 2015, 04:04 PM Agree 0
    It's very sad to learn of Mr Thompson's case. A close friend was a secondary school principal for years, and I was appalled to hear many of the stories of situations with which he was tasked with dealing, especially some of the dreadful conflicts with parents. These are high pressure roles, and I admire anyone who has the courage to take them on. I think it's incredibly important that anyone who steps into a principal role is given access to good support services. And not only given that access, but to be made abundantly clear of precisely what's available and how they can be assisted and supported. Everyone benefits if this occurs. We want people in these roles who are able to give their very best to the students and the communities, and a well-supported principal will surely be better able to achieve that aim.
  • JoeCitizen | 16 Feb 2015, 09:21 AM Agree 0
    Agreed. Hopefully this year will be a more supportive one for principals across the country.
  • Collegiate Principal | 05 Jun 2015, 08:54 PM Agree 0
    It is six months this Sunday since Dr Mark Thompson took his life. Not much has changed really. Principals are still abused and staff threatened. The problem is todays society. The public wants to blame someone for their own inadequacies and unfortunately it seems to start at the school level. Only today a primary school in the north of Melbourne was threatened by a disgruntled parent making death threats because they were not happy about something!!! What does it take for society to wake up that we are all in charge of ourselves. Don't blame others take a look in your own back yard first. Principals have a strong moral purpose. But they can only take so much. The education department has to support its Principals they are a vital part of the education system. Stop making excuses let not Dr Mark Thompson's death be in vain.
  • Ian Dowsett | 24 Aug 2015, 11:45 AM Agree 0
    It's time to get parents involved more with helping in their children's education. They can do this by helping them with their spelling at home, whilst observing and helping them, during homework.
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    Our aim is to introduce the app to English speaking countries, and to have families, with a device, have the Easy Spelling Aid, App.
    My App is supported by most of the Australian state EDU departments, and is on the Victorian, iPads for education website.
    Western Australian Education Consultants stated, they consider it to be innovative and simple to use. A 21st century learning tool with obvious benefits to students. Choice of font, sensitivity to voice, range of vocabulary and speed of response are strengths.
    Our aim is to seek parents understanding and awareness, of their children’s possible need for assistance at home, as well as at school. And that help is available, at a low cost.
  • dissapointed | 15 Dec 2015, 02:32 PM Agree 0
    After a student passed away, counselling was offered, nil follow up by any senior staff however.
  • Mumof2 | 11 Aug 2016, 01:29 PM Agree 0
    I'm a parent who has observed a narcissistic & psychopathic parent wreaking havoc at our school over the last few years. (It took me 2 & 1/2 years to realise what was going on). The Principal ended up taking accrued sick/stress leave, & after some time, transferred to another region to continue working.
    The school community has been divided by deliberate misinformation, aberrations of the truth, & destructive gossip circulated by this parent.
    This narcissistic parent routinely bypassed the Principal, & wrote numerous letters of complaint to the Regional Director, & even to the State Minister (& this activity is not an isolated incident, as other individuals in the wider community have been treated similarly).
    I am also aware that a small selection of disgruntled school staff (who did not like some proposed changes at the school), fed the situation by gossiping with this parent as well.
    Reputations of staff (ability, work performance etc) & of others who publicly oppose, question or disagree with such narcissistic persons, suffer greatly.
    With experts noting that 1 in 100 people are psychopathic, what protection, support or policy is in place to protect school staff, or other parents, from abusive or unbalanced individuals like this?
    People who blindly believe; & never question the content or validity of these people's complaints or destructive stories, either mobilise and act as a group, (with this parent acting as their collective spokesperson - thus feeding the narcissism), OR, the accused & their children are avoided, socially isolated, targeted or treated with contempt.
    Since much of this is gossip-driven, those who are accused of wrong-doing have no right of reply, or may lack awareness of the circulating stories. If they do discover what is being said, either their job role limits their ability to act, or there is little or no evidence to act upon.
    After the damage is done, the community has already made up their minds, & they aren't prepared to listen to the truth, or an alternate perspective; particularly when the gossip has invoked an emotional or angry response. Narcissistic psychopaths know this, they study human behaviour, & they use it to their advantage.
    Enthusiastic parents joining the P&C Executive have either left the school or leave after only one year, year after year, because the complaints & demands of this person are so great. (This year between only 2 monthly meetings, she sent over 20 very long emails to the P&C Executive & Principal. The volunteer hours wasted reading her emails, meeting & discussing matters with her, or about her complaints or demands, & the planning & typing of responses to this person's emails, completely kills P&C productivity & enthusiasm ).
    Education Queensland & P&CsQld can do little beyond adding to their bulging folder of complaints- from & about her- due to the limitations of existing policy or organisational role.
    The end result is that the situation continues-
    Staff have to make time every week (& sometimes several times a day) to listen to this one person, in addition to addressing the other responsibilities of their job role.
    This individual's behaviour & destructive activity continues......because it works for her.
    Exhausted from the onslaught from this person, people eventually cave in to her demands to "keep her happy" or to stem the tide of further complaints submitted to superiors who sometimes think staff aren't managing the individual adequately.
    I invite you to google "narcissistic psychopath symptoms". These people can appear very charming, sincere & believable, but are in fact cold (despite feigned warmth), & are ego-driven, calculating & deliberately manipulative.
    Frankly I'm disgusted that there is so much policy relating to student misbehaviour, but next to nothing for that of problem parents. Call it a mental health issue, but it's one that is incredibly destructive, harassing & never-ending.
    By the way, we've had 6 Acting &/or Incumbent Principal's over a 3 year period. Clearly situations like this also detrimentally affect school service & management delivery, & those most affected are our kids.
    What policy changes must there be to address & prevent these issues? And how many lives need to be affected before effective change is enacted?
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