Since its inception in 2011, the annual Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey (The survey) has engaged over 50% of Australia’s school leaders. In 2019, approximately 94.5% of participants have participated in the survey multiple times.
Upon completion of the survey, each participant received a comprehensive, individualised report from his/her survey responses benchmarked against the general population and their peers. Returning participants were also able to compare their 2019 results against their results from previous years.
The survey utilised three “red flag” risk indicators: Self-harm; Quality of Life; and Occupational Health. Any individual or combination of the three triggers resulted in the participant receiving a red flag notification, informing him or her of the indicator(s). The notification also included contact details of Employee Assistance Programs and local support services that are available. In 2019, 28.1% of participants received a red flag email.
School leaders self-reported working an average of approximately 55.2 hours a week during the school term, with approximately 97.3% reported working over 40 hours a week, and approximately 72.4% reported working over 50 hours a week. School leaders continue to report sheer quantity of work, lack of time to focus on teaching and learning, and student mental health, as their main sources of stress. Mental health of students and staff has become an increasing source of stress for participants in recent years, with it being highest in 2019.
Recommendations have been provided at government, employer, professional association and unions, community, school, individual and research community levels to help improve the working environment for school leaders and educators. Communities can support their local school and curb offensive behaviour. Schools can increase internal social capital. Individual educators can increase personal capital, respectfully speak back to moral harassment, ensure their passion for the vocation is harmonious rather than obsessive, and take responsibility for their work-life balance.