NEWS that every Victorian state school principal and their deputies will soon be encouraged to undergo regular health checks will be welcomed by many at the pointy end of the teaching profession.
There are few greater responsibilities in our society than providing children with an education that gives them the best chance at a safe, secure and fulfilling life.
No doubt with this great responsibility comes great stress, and this is reflected starkly in the latest Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey.
Released earlier this year, the survey of more than 3000 principals across the country found one in three respondents had experienced physical violence in 2016.
Of deep concern is that one in 10 principals who took part in the survey revealed they had thought about self-harm in the past week. The survey also indicated that principals display symptoms of burnout at a rate 1.6 times higher than the general population and symptoms of stress 1.7 times higher.
Public perception that teaching is a “cushy” job, with lengthy holidays and an abundance of pupil-free days, must surely be dispelled by these shocking results.
Clearly, this trend cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.
For the good of our country, teaching must be a profession that is appealing to the best and brightest students plotting a pathway into the workforce.
If the threat of violence – be it from parents or students – is ever-present and the health outcomes are poor, then those with the potential to be great teachers will put their skills to use elsewhere.
Of course, simply introducing regular health checks will not solve the the underlying issues that are behind the high rate of burnout.
In fact, Australian Catholic University associate professor Philip Riley, who conducts the annual principal health and wellbeing survey, has dismissed the health checks regime as "a defensive legal strategy" to prevent principals from suing the department.
Much of the stress those in the teaching profession experience can be attributed to a lack of resources required for them to do their jobs properly. Get that right and watch the stress levels fall.
***If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, call Lifeline on 131 114 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.
- Ross Tyson, deputy editor