This piece was published in the NT Sun on March 6 2018.
SCHOOL PRINCIPALS ARE BEING SQUEEZED
The NT News ran a story on February 23 confirming that principals are among the most dedicated of all professionals. By and large school principals are among the most committed of all who are leaders. According to the survey results quoted in Judith Aisthorpe’s story, “Territory principals are the most committed to their work.”
School principals should accept this compliment. So too should parents, students and communities supporting them.
School principals are often caught between two sets of expectations. On the one hand they are the contact persons taking orders from and reporting to policy setting politicans and system administrators. They have to ensure that systemically devised policies become practice within their schools. Their performance management is based on how school leaders meet expected school improvement and accountability pressures.
On the other hand, principals are beholden to their staff, students, parents and their school community. The expectations held for schools and schooling by this cohort are often different from the priorities set from on high. The effort involved in satisfying all parties with differing outcomes is both strenuous and time consuming.
The national health and wellbeing survey discussed by Ms Aisthorpe confirmed that occupational stress experienced by school leaders is close to double the anxiety level felt by the population at large.
A seriously concerning revelation was that 57% of school principals had been threatened with assault during the period covered by the survey. More alarmingly, 47% had been victims of physical violence. Any suggestion that principals as school leaders (and teachers) should absorb, accomodate and live with physical abuse is way off beam.
If assaults are inflicted by students, then departmental and government response supporting those assaulted is necessary. If inflicted by parents, guardians or members of community, the force of the law with appropriate changes needs to be brought. School leaders (and teachers) should not feel they have to live with such injustice. Neither should they feel themselves to be inadequate if they are victims of assault.
Principals reported they enjoy and gain satisfaction from their positions. If that satisfaction is shared by colleagues and family members, so much the better. However the pressures and expectations placed on school leaders are obvious. That awareness is a factor leading to many more junior educators determining they will never become principals.
That vow is ominous and must be turned, for the future of school principalship is under threat.