Some schools are already struggling to attract candidates for the top job and there are concerns the situation will be exacerbated by the Andrews government's promise to open 100 new state schools over the next eight years.Each of these new schools will need a new principal.
Last year, 115 of Victoria's 1531 state school principals left their job, a similar trend to the previous two years.
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said some schools advertising for new principals received no applicants. Others have had to advertise up to three times in order to attract suitable candidates."There are many assistant principals who are quite happy to stay in that role and not take that extra step to become a principal," she said.
"The salaries do not reflect the workload, which is 60 plus hours per week, or the responsibilities."The lowest paid state school principal receives $135,000 per year, including superannuation, while the lowest paid assistant principal earns around $123,000, including superannuation.
While Ms Podbury said the department was working hard to avert the crisis, a lot more work was needed."I'm concerned that the workload and challenges that are inherent to the role will not be overcome."
One principal, who did not want to be named, said he was retiring three years earlier than expected because parents were constantly undermining him and displaying an aggressiveness and entitlement he had never seen before."Some believe that they know what is best not only for their child but for the entire school," he said.
"One of my biggest issues is the way parents have almost unfettered ability to make life difficult for staff and principals."He said one parent complained to the department after he told a child they couldn't play in the playground because they had hit another child.
"They know I then have to jump through hoops to respond," he explained.He averages 67 hours of work per week significantly more than the already taxing 52 hours and 45 minutes of weekly work undertaken by the average Australian principal.
"I have 50 staff and not one of them want to be a principal," he said.Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said he was aware of the challenges in recruiting more principals.
But he said the government was prepared to take on this challenge, and had invested in a new program to prepare principals for the job and a $51 million scheme to improve the health and wellbeing of principals. This includes health checks, a mentor program and initiatives to slash red tape in schools."It is a massive generational change for the leaders of our schools but I know we also have a number of great people ready to fill those positions," Mr Merlino said.
Victorian Principals Association president Anne-Maree Kliman said she was concerned the new program for aspiring principals, which includes a test that will become compulsory within three years, could deter more people from applying for the top job."It marginalises certain groups - regional and remote people who will have to come into the city for the assessments."
Australian Catholic University associate professor Philip Riley said it wasn't just Victoria that was experiencing a shortage of principals."We are in trouble for sure and this is a national problem," he said.
Dr Riley, who runs an annual survey on the health and wellbeing of Australian principals, said violence was a major problem.His most recent survey found that more than 40 per cent of principals in public schools had experienced physical violence at school.
Education Editor at The Age
17 January 2019
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