Principal well-being under fire in latest health and safety survey

Nick Lynch.
Nick Lynch.

The health and well-being of principals has come under scrutiny in the latest principal occupational health and safety survey.

Around 50 per cent of Australia’s 10,000 principals contributed to the data, which showed more than half of the nation’s principals were working hours which made it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

A total of 55 per cent of principals worked 51-56 hours per week during a school term and 27 per cent of principals worked 61-65 hours. 

Lake Bolac College principal George Porter said there were definitely weeks when he would be placed in that 55 per cent bracket. 

“Other weeks when I wasn’t working those many hours I would be close to it, but there is a lot of demand on principals,” he said.

“We have to attend school functions from early in the morning to the night, a lot of the job is about being present in the community.”

The survey found principals who averaged more than 50 hours of work per week increased their chances of experiencing cardiovascular disease, weight gain, depression and alcohol and tobacco consumption. 

“There comes a time where I have to lay off because you can’t help anyone if you aren’t in a good place yourself,” Mr Porter said.

“Getting good rest is essential and also having a supportive community around you.”

Stawell Secondary College principal Nick Lynch said he had noticed principal well-being and stress was being spoken about more during principal meetings. 

“There is more awareness in the workplace, it is okay to speak up and say I have a problem with this and I need your help, it is a changing culture,” he said. 

“Teachers also have a big workload and that needs to be addressed as well.”

Mr Lynch said he started every day at 7.30am.

“You need to find what works well for you, but there should be a degree of stress involved because teaching is an important job and people out there expect us to work hard,” he said.