Welcome back!

We hope you had a restful break over the summer and are ready to hit the ground running for the return of students, teachers and staff.

Challenges and Victories

Being a school principal is not for the faint-hearted. The role itself is a complex beast and has evolved to a 24/7 concern that is more demanding, unpredictable, complex and dynamic than ever before. Changes in technology, compliance and community expectations, combined with a huge workload have led to many principals feeling seriously burnt out. This will not be news to many of you. But you may not know that 90% of Australian school leaders report being passionate about their work and have significantly higher job satisfaction than the general population. The annual Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey of 2017 highlights the strengths of school leaders in terms of a strong work ethic, commitment and passion for their work, in spite of the well-documented challenges of their role.

With this in mind, we are going to take a deep dive into some big challenges for principals heading into 2019. We are also going to shine a light on a ground-breaking program that is being rolled out to more than 1000 teachers, school leaders and staff in Term 1. The results from trials of the research-based Flourish Program have been significant so far, and we’re excited to bring you more details. So many of you shared your insights and experiences on our last post about principal workload and we hope you will join the discussion again.

1. Principals are working all hours

For both principals and educators, it would seem there is never enough time in the working day. Or as Daniel Steele put it in this great article about how primary level educators spend their day, ‘time might not yet be a friend of teachers”.

“Principals experience multiple interruptions during the school day, which makes it difficult to complete activities that require longer periods of time and attention. These tasks, therefore, are generally completed before or after school hours, in the evenings, or on weekends.” Principal workload and time use study.

2. Workloads are not sustainable

“Principals have the greatest impact on the culture of schools”, Bob Willetts, vice president of the NSW Primary Principals Association (NSWPPA) told The Educator recently. So it is of concern that most principals reported that they consider their current workload to be neither reasonable nor achievable.

“While they acknowledged that working beyond standard hours is required to undertake their role, there is a general feeling that the current workload is neither achievable (75% reporting that their workload is ‘difficult to achieve’ or ‘not at all achievable’) nor sustainable in the longer term (77% reporting that their workload is ‘difficult to sustain’ or ‘not at all sustainable’)” Principal workload and time Use study

3. Competing demands – Administration vs Educational Leadership

Looking again at the Principal workload and time use study, principals, on average, undertook 45 activities during the observation period of the school day, with an estimated 70 interruptions in a normal school day. Further analysis found that 30% of principals’ time is spent on leading teaching and learning, with the remaining time spent on management and administration.

“Principals reported that they had reduced capacity to fulfil their role as educational leaders as they are spending a large proportion of time on activities that they classify as administration.”

4. Maintaining the elusive work/life balance

As Dr Adam Fraser who led The Flourish Project alongside the Deakin University Business School and The Shoalhaven Primary Principals’ Council said recently to the ABC online:

“There’s no one solution, quick fix or silver bullet. It involves a change in approach among students, parents, staff, government and principals and society as a whole… The Riley report made recommendations for principal wellbeing that suggested increasing the principals’ connection to the people with whom they work, helping them work more effectively, and improving their work-life balance”.

The Flourish Project – Supporting principals to thrive, not just survive

The Flourish Project has a vision to leave a legacy of wellbeing and fulfilment for current and future school principals, and so far there have been some great results. Rod White, Principal of Tomerong Primary School, participated in the trial and described it as “by far the best professional and personal development I have been involved in” You can read more about this supportive program here.

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