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Principals: you are not alone

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14 March 2019

Independent Schools Victoria recently hosted a briefing and lunch for new principals. It was entirely coincidental that the gathering took place on the same day that the latest national survey on the health and welfare of school principals was released.

While the timing was purely a matter of chance, it served to reinforce the importance of the work principals do, the pressures they face, and their need for support.

The findings of the latest Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Surveymake challenging reading. Among other things, the survey confirms the extreme pressures that some principals face – including abusive behaviour, even violence, from parents.

These pressures are growing, with close to one in two principals who took part in the survey reporting threatening behaviour, and one in three reporting actual physical violence.

It is no consolation that the survey finds that the prevalence of this behaviour is lowest in Independent schools. Clearly it’s unacceptable in any school.

But it highlights the challenges any principal can face – and it underlines the importance of providing school leaders with a wide range of support. This is where ISV comes into the picture, and why we hosted our recent gathering for principals.

There’s a lot of effort and attention focussed on the role of teachers, who are rightly seen as essential to the wellbeing of students and the outcomes they achieve.

But we think the role of principals is just as important – and maybe more so, because a good principal has the ability to affect the outcomes of all students in a school.

The influence of a great principal flows through an entire school, reaching into every classroom and learning space, and providing opportunities for teachers to grow. Principals have this positive influence though a combination of skill, experience, personality and training.

They set goals that can be shared by all staff, they encourage cooperation between staff and they nurture their professional learning.

In all of this work, ISV can assist, with programs that enhance principals’ leadership skills and their professional knowledge – and with day-to-day support in all areas of school operations. This includes administration and management, employment relations, funding, compliance, accountability and media and communications.

Our support is not static; it adapts to changing circumstances. This year we are rethinking our successful New Principals Program with more opportunities for mentoring from experienced principals who have taken part in the Leading Learning That Matters program.

We are partnering with Deloittes to offer Courageous Principals training – an award-winning program that equips principals and school leaders with skills to become more effective leaders and ensure students can reach their potential.

Our staff are well aware of the pressures confronting school leaders that are starkly exposed in the latest survey on their wellbeing. That’s why this year we are offering principals access to the Mindful Learning Program developed by Caranich at Work, a firm that provides employee assistance programs.

Despite the challenges they face, we know that most principals report high levels of personal and professional satisfaction from their jobs – a finding that’s confirmed by the survey.

That’s because they know their job allows them to have a positive impact on the lives of young people and, through them, the wider community.