A national survey conducted by researchers at Monash University’ Faculty of Education  has shown that Australia's school principals work long hours and are more likely to experience physical violence than the general workforce.


The Australian Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey, is the first to measure the wellbeing of principals in government, Catholic and independent schools.


Lead researcher, Dr Philip Riley said that in recent years there had been significant changes in the industry brought about by shifting community attitudes and government policy. However, until now, there had been no research done to measure the effects of these changes on principals.


“This year sees the introduction of a national curriculum tied to national testing - NAPLAN - and deeper public scrutiny, and we don’t know what effects this will have on [principals'] personal health and wellbeing,” Dr Riley said.


“The principals said the volume and growing complexity of their work and a lack of time to focus on teaching and student learning were two of the biggest causes of work-related stress.


“The research highlights that principles are putting in long hours - we found 80 per cent of respondents put in more than of 46 hours per week during term, with 25 per cent working more than 61 hours per week.”


The research found that school holidays didn’t give principals time away from school, with more than 50 per cent working more than 25 hours per week during these periods.


Dr Riley said another major finding from the study was that, compared to the general work force, the nation's school leaders experienced nearly five times the incidence of threats of violence and six times the incidence of physical assault.


“The results come at a time when as many as 70 per cent of Australia’s school principals are within five years of retirement age,” Dr Riley said.


“They will be replaced by much younger, less experienced individuals, potentially more at risk of poor health from undertaking the role. The time is right to make sure there are systems in place to support these new leaders in the years to come.”