Principals are being punched, scratched, bitten, spat on and are turning to alcohol to cope with the stresses of their job, a shocking new report has found.
Principals are being punched, scratched, bitten, spat on and are turning to alcohol to cope with the stresses of their job, a shocking new report has found.

Aussie school principals attacked by students

PRINCIPALS are being punched, scratched, bitten, spat on and are turning to alcohol to cope with the stresses of their job, a shocking new report has found.

Almost half of all school principals were threatened with violence last year and a third physically attacked, according to the annual Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing survey out today.

It also found an increasingly demanding workload, cyber bullying and chronic teacher shortages were putting the physical and mental wellbeing of education leaders on the line, with a third of principals facing a "serious risk" to their health.

One Queensland principal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they had been subject to verbal abuse on several occasions and had needed to place themselves "in harm's way" many times to protect students and staff.

"This can have a significant personal impact - a loss of confidence, feeling unsafe in the workplace, sleep issues," they said.

"I consider the greatest single issue is workload. I work on average a 65 hour week and I am not alone"

Another principal said: "I have been verbally threatened and abused by students and their parent/carers ... this has involved being sworn at, spat on, having things thrown at me, having my physical safety and that of my family threatened, witnessing having staff and other students threatened while I was managing a situation, doors slammed and punched in close proximity to me, desks and chairs overturned and thrown towards me and personal property damaged."

Australian Catholic University Associate Professor and chief investigator Philip Riley said principals were "under attack" and that the increasing levels of offensive behaviour directed at school leaders "is a disgrace".

He added they faced far higher rates of violence at work that the general population, as well as greater risks to their health.

"Many don't sleep through the night ... they are severely sleep deprived which is a big indictor of something serious," Associate Professor Riley said.

"They are experiencing very high levels of depression, anxiety and physical stress. Clearly principals are feeling isolated and alone."

 

Associate Professor Philip Riley of Australian Catholic University and chief investogator of the Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing survey has said principals are “under attack”. Supplied picture.
Associate Professor Philip Riley of Australian Catholic University and chief investogator of the Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing survey has said principals are “under attack”. Supplied picture.

One principal said the role of principal was becoming "unmanageable", and that parents were "unforgiving", while another was planning to retire early before their health was further damaged.

The report made 15 key recommendations, including de-politicising education and having each level of government overseeing a single education budget, to encourage a long-term focus and cultural change.

Australian Secondary Principals' Association (ASPA) President Andrew Pierpoint said the association supported the recommendations.

He added ASPA was "very concerned" by the findings and that they were reflected in the declining number of people pursing leadership roles in schools.

"We're seeing increasingly levels of violence at all levels of society," Mr Pierpoint said.

"We as a community need to take action - this is not something that principals, the schools or the department of education can solve."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (ASPA) President Andrew Pierpoint said the association was “very concerned” by the findings of the new survey. Photographer: Russell Brown.
Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (ASPA) President Andrew Pierpoint said the association was “very concerned” by the findings of the new survey. Photographer: Russell Brown.


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