Entire education system at risk, report warns

by Robert Ballantyne04 Dec 2015

A new report released on Thursday, shows the increasing pressures, stress, threats and violence facing Australian principals are taking their toll, and without action, the future of our entire education system is at risk as principal turnover becomes more frequent and positions harder to fill.

The 2015 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety & Wellbeing Survey Report found 41% of principals have experienced threats of violence and 36% experienced some form of bullying.

Parents were the worst offenders making up 42% of reported bullying and 41% of threats towards principals.

Alarmingly, the report also revealed that more than one in three principals experience actual violence – eight times that experienced by the general population, with students the most common perpetrators (77% of reported violence).

Report author, Australian Catholic University (ACU) associate professor, Philip Riley, said the report, now in its fifth year, was showing a consistent escalation of offensive behaviour that can no longer be ignored.

“Many of the results are not only of serious concern for the profession as a whole, but also the wider community. As an example of the toll that issues like this can take, this year’s survey saw double the rate of ‘red flags’ compared with last year.

These ‘red flags’ appear when a principal’s responses show cause for concern and that intervention may be required,” Riley said.

Despite the increases in offensive behaviour, principals still rate their biggest contributors to stress as the sheer quantity of work and lack of time to focus on teaching and learning. Examples of sources of stress on the rise include dealing with student and staff mental health issues, resourcing and government initiatives.

The report, supported by Teachers Health Fund and all national principals’ associations, and conducted by the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at ACU, includes responses from approximately 40% of the nation’s principals (4,386 principals from government, catholic and independent primary and secondary schools) over a five-year period.

There was, however, some good news.

More principals are taking control of their work-life balance, with a decrease (55% down to 39%) of principals working more than 25 hours per week in school holiday periods from 2011 to 2015.

In addition, the increasing rate of job satisfaction is also significantly higher than the general population.
However, the report authors suggested now is the time for proactive action to be taken.

“Now is the time for parents and students to stop the offensive behaviour and for the education community and government to resist the quick fixes and focus on the long term,” Riley added.

“Most importantly, it’s time to start a national conversation at all levels to address the issues head-on.”

The report outlined seven key recommendations:
1. Government: Adopt a whole of government approach to education budgets and stop looking for short-term quick fixes.

2. Employers: Reduce job demands or increase resources to cope with increased workloads and work towards building trust in the system as a whole and between those who work in it.

3. Professional associations and key stakeholders: Collaboration across the education community to inform and give ‘on the ground’ direction to education policy.

4. Community: Support local schools and stop the offensive behaviour.

5. Schools: Increase trust and collaboration between staff members and across schools. This can be learnt from observing school networks that have made progress in this space.

6. Educators: Respectfully speak back when faced with moral harassment and take responsibility for personal work-life balance.

7. Research community: Provide better longitudinal evidence of the differential impact of all the influences on education to provide better insight into the most effective policies, processes and procedures in Australia’s differing contexts.


  • by Mark Watson 3/12/2015 11:21:18 AM

    Or contrarywise!

    Last Auditor Generals report I was able to find on the Bictorian State Governent was a female bias of approx 75%

  • by Peter 4/12/2015 12:14:05 PM

    Has anyone noticed that student behaviours in schools have continued to become worse and worse since we got rid of the cane?

    Has anyone actually surveyed all the males who are now about 50 to see what their attitudes towards bringing the cane back actually is?
    Why would you survey this age group? Well, because this is the age group on which the cane was actually used and everyone knows that it was males who were MAINLY (but certainly not always) given the cane.

    Their opinions are crucial. They are in the BEST position to be able to guide society as to whether this form of punishment should be brought back.

    Forget about the politically correct and those who think all forms of corporal punishment should never return. Let's just actually ASK those who got it. They are the ones we need to hear from. (If you never got it, we don't need to hear from you. You are probably part of the problem.)

    Don't think that I'm saying this is the solution to the problems we face with teenagers today. I'm suggesting that it needs to be THOROUGHLY debated in society and if society deems that it should be brought back, then do it.

    No one has the guts to make the hard decisions any more. We keep finding band aid solutions and let's face it, they're not working.

    If they were working, then why do we have so much violence in schools compared to the 70s and 80s?

    Why do we have so many issues with men displaying violence against women (domestic violence)?

    Why do we have so many people in gaols and the need to build more gaols?

    Why do we have so many people in society who SEVERELY lack self control?

    Why do I predict that anyone who bothers to write a comment on here about my comment will most likely disagree with it because all those who agree with it won't have the guts to stand up and say so. :-)

    (I need a bigger soap box.)

  • by Luke 5/12/2015 1:47:21 PM

    Peter, you have hit the nail on the head several times over. You are absolutely correct. Almost every male I have worked with in schools wants to bring the cane back in, but it won't happen because we have stupid women blocking such a move. Probably being blocked by the gays too.

    People simply don't see the link between a good corporal system of punishment and a society where young people grow up respecting elders, each other and themselves. Too many do gooders (aka idiots) have this notion that using corporal punishment breeds violence into children. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a stack of evidence that this is totally nonsense.

    You point out the 50 age group of men who got the cane. Well, let's just find a fair dinkum researcher to do a study on domestic violence. I bet that males in their 20s and 30s are FAR FAR more likely to be involved in domestic violence against women than men in their 50s and 60s. So, come on researchers, start doing some real research.

    I agree with Peter 100%. Bring back the cane. This country needs corporal punishment (such as a whip) instead of gaols. I'm sick of paying 100 000 a year for every criminal in gaol. Why should we (tax payers) have to pay for that? Why is it that our hard working parents only get about $30 000 a year to survive on after working hard for this nation all their lives and being good citizens and these crims are having
    $100 000 or more spent on them every year. What did they do for society, besides destroy it.