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Please find below an updated and full response to the 2019 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey.

2019 Australian Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey

CaSPA’s Response

CaSPA along with the other peak Principals Associations welcomes the latest report for the Australian Principal Occupational Health Safety and Wellbeing 2019 Report.  The report is from the joint project with ACU & Deakin University and has involved Principals and Educational Leaders for all three sectors of education in Australia since 2011.

Some key findings of the report:

  • 84% of Principals, Deputy Principals and Assistant Principals have been subjected to offensive behaviour.
  • Principals work long hours.
  • Principals have high levels of work-related stress.

Some recommendations of the report:

  • There needs to be a strong focus across all sectors reviewing the work practices of Principals.
  • Increase opportunities and access to professional learning.
  • Develop a positive narrative in the community of Principals and school staff.

Full report link: 2019 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey

Australian Primary Principals’ Association (APPA) President Malcolm Elliott told EducationHQ there was a “very significant risk” that principals could retire due to burnout from dealing with the demanding workload induced by the pandemic.

“We may well see, given the age profile of principalship in Australia, that a lot of Principals will stick with the task until we get through the other side of COVID-19 and then retire,” he said. 

Beth Blackwood, CEO of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA), also shared Mr Elliott’s concerns in Education HQ that the burden now on Principals, as a result of initiating rapid and ongoing educational and institutional changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, may put more Principals at risk of burnout.

"Since school leaders responded to the 2019 survey, they have been leading their communities through the extreme challenges of drought, bushfires and now a coronavirus pandemic. Many have had to deal with the impact of all three," Ms Blackwood said.

“When Principals’ health and wellbeing are already at severe risk, we ask that parents and carers take extra care that their communications with school leaders and school staff – whether on school grounds or via email and phone – remain courteous and respectful,” Ms Blackwood said. 

Brad Gaynor from the Australian Catholic Primary Principals’ Association (ACPPA) in a media statement said, “while the current trend is worrying, ACPPA is heartened to see that during these difficult times of COVID-19, the teaching profession and the roles of educational leaders has been affirmed and praised by the general community, with a renewed sense of appreciation and greater understanding of the work in schools.”

There have been other key association responses, including the International Confederation of Principals (ICP), to this comprehensive report. CaSPA highly recommends the report to all Principals, Principal Associations and Education Systems. The issues are well documented, and the report highlights very useful recommendations to improve Principal health and wellbeing into the future.

Phil Lewis

CaSPA Executive Officer

13 May 2020


A Letter to Australian Education Ministers re COVID-19

23 April 2020

Dear Ministers of Education
The federal and state and territory governments, working through the National Cabinet, are to be congratulated for all their endeavours towards a shared response to the manifold challenges posed by CoVid-19.
Our organisations represent leaders of Australian schools.
Principals are trained educators and community leaders. We recognise that the critical relationships in the education of Australia’s children are those between school and parent/carers, teacher, and student and those of collegiality and cooperation between teachers, schools, and sectors.
We know and understand our school communities, and are highly experienced in managing the provision of education to students while taking into account their health and wellbeing. The agile response of schools to meet the educational needs of students and professional needs of teachers during Term 1 2020 is ample proof of the capacity of schools to manage rapid and significant transformation in education delivery.
We are aware of the stresses within families and understand the uncertainties and fears of parents and of teachers. We therefore urge governments to ask for and listen to our voice in their decision making about schools and that they incorporate our understanding and experience of what works best in schools into their planning for the safe return to school for students, teachers and their families.
We call on the local and federal Ministers of Education to work alongside us, together with health experts, in the initial formulation of policy development. This needs to occur prior to governments announcing any further strategies with regard return of students to school.
We recognise that the regulatory responsibility for schools lies with eight different jurisdictions, all with different pandemic challenges and risks. Decision making around the return to full on-site school operations will of necessity be localised. It is therefore vitally important that National Cabinet seeks greater alignment between national and jurisdictional communications on schooling issues. This may
entail the federal government refraining from generalised directions to parents which are at odds with the specifics of jurisdictional planning.
Conflicting advice erodes the trust that is required for the proper functioning of government and communities. As it is Principals who are left to manage uncertainty and loss of confidence, we therefore recommend for immediate action:
1. Federal and state and territory ministers of education establish advisory groups of principals from all school sectors or, at the least, representatives of the four peak national principals’ associations
2. State and territory ministers agree to uphold and adhere to one national statement of advice on reducing the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools; differences in advised practices create uncertainty and undermine parents’ and teachers’ confidence as well as the confidence of the wider community.
School principals know what will and will not work for students, teachers and parents. We are ready and willing to advise governments to ensure the successful transition to full on-site delivery of school education.
Yours faithfully

Mr Andrew Pierpoint President, ASPA (Australian Secondary Principals’ Association) email:

Mr Malcolm Elliot President, APPA (Australian Primary Principals Association) email:

Mrs Loretta Wholley President, CaSPA (Catholic Secondary Principals Australia) email:

The Rev. Chris Ivey National Chair, AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools Australia) Principal, St Andrew’s Anglican College, Qld Email:

Ms Beth Blackwood CEO, AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools Australia) email:


Zoom Meeting of the 4 Peak Principal Associations to draft the Letter to Ministers