Whilst recent commentary and dialogue has focussed on the severe teacher shortages, little mention if any, is being made in relation to the national trend that’s been growing for some time and that is principal shortages. Over the course of many years, there has been a declining trend of senior teachers and assistant principals aspiring to the role of principal and it has reached a critical point. The current reality is that as principals retire, deputies are reluctant to take up the job. A study conducted way back in 2014 by Loretta Piazza and Mark Thompson, surveyed assistant principals in Victoria’s north-west and found that an overwhelming majority had no intention of applying to become a principal. Many years later, and the trend has not been reversed. Professor Phil Riley has also highlighted the impending leadership shortages as the article below demonstrates. Any discourse relating to teacher shortages must also give due consideration and attention to the shortage of school leaders. Principal shortage ‘a looming crisis’ The increased pressure on principals appears to be squashing the desire of senior teachers to take on the top job, Professor Riley says. He foresees “a looming crisis” related to a shortage of principals across Australia in coming years. “There’s been something like an 70 per cent decline in real application rates for the principal-ship at a time when 70 per cent of principals are within two or three years of retiring,” he says. “So it’s clearly a crisis and I’m worried that there will be a blanket government response, like they did in Portugal, where principals are now in charge of five schools.
So they solved the principal shortage with the stroke of a pen but they did nothing to address the issues that led to the shortage.” Professor Riley recommends that Australia adopt a “whole of government approach to education”, where state and federal governments combine resources to oversee a single education budget. “There are no quick fixes with this, and we first have to start to treat it seriously and admit we have a real problem with the way our principals are treated,” he says. The paradox is that despite the violence and high levels of stress, burnout and depression, principals report a greater level of job satisfaction than the general population. “They feel like they’re doing very important work and clearly they are — they have the ability to change people’s lives,” Professor Riley says. “If you ask any teacher or principal what they like about their job, they’ll give you names of kids who were difficult and describe how they turned them around. It’s not about the money, it’s not about the holidays, it’s not about prestige … it’s really about doing something to help people. That’s what keeps them going.” Author: Menios Constantinou https://www.impact.acu.edu.au/career/the-harsh-realities-of-working-as-a-school-principal-in-modernday-australia (Professor Philip Riley spent 16 years in schools before moving to the tertiary sector. Every year since 2011, he has led a team of researchers to conduct The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey).