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A Third Of Aussie Principals Have Experienced Violence, Threats From Parents

Almost one in three Australian principals have experienced physical violence and threats from parents and students, a new survey has found.

The staggering results were released on Monday and came from a nationwide survey of more than 50 percent of school principals prior to the pandemic and catastrophic bushfires.

Researchers from the Australian Catholic University and Deakin University found nearly one in three principals faced stress and burnout from their jobs, including high levels of threats and physical violence by parents and students.

The survey found that over 84 percent of principals reported being subjected to "offensive behaviour" from 2018-9.

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More than 42 percent of school leaders claimed they've been victims of physical violence, compared to less than four percent of the general population.

While more than 37 percent of principals have experienced bullying compared to about eight percent of the general population, and at least half of school leaders have been the subject of gossip and slander.

Australian Catholic University Professor Herb Marsh said the combined impact of heavy workloads and "offensive behaviour by parents and students" is a risk to the health and life expectancy of principals.

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“Last year, school leaders told us they were struggling from many serious work-related issues including stress caused by parents, burn-out from the sheer quantity of work, employer demands and student and staff mental health issues,” Marsh said.

Almost three-quarters of principals are older than 50 and more than 25 percent of Australia’s school principals are over 60 and nearing retirement, according to the survey's findings.

Alarmingly, school leaders self-reported working an average of approximately 55 hours a week during the school term.

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Deakin University Professor Phil Riley said it was no surprise fewer people were willing to take on the "complex" role of being a school principal.

Riley said he hoped the survey would provide a greater awareness of the challenges faced by principals and the vital role of school leaders.

“The sudden changes to education delivery prompted by COVID-19 restrictions required an unprecedented response by school leaders to roll-out remote learning opportunities for their students,” Professor Riley said.

“We hope this points to a future in which there is a greater awareness and acknowledgement of the many stresses and challenges that principals face on a regular basis as they lead their students and staff.”