Vi­o­lence against prin­ci­pals on the rise

The Australian Education Reporter - - NEWS: FEDERAL - CAMERON DRUM­MOND

MORE than a third of prin­ci­pals across Aus­tralia have experienced phys­i­cal vi­o­lence in the work­place, an an­nual study on prin­ci­pals’ oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety has con­firmed.

Vi­o­lence against prin­ci­pals had risen 7 per cent from 27 per cent in 2011, to 34 per cent in 2016, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the 2016 Aus­tralian Prin­ci­pal Oc­cu­pa­tional Health, Safety and Well­be­ing Sur­vey.

It also showed in­creas­ing work­place pres­sures had con­tin­ued to im­pact negatively on the health and well­be­ing of school prin­ci­pals.

Al­most 50 per cent of the na­tion’s prin­ci­pals and deputy prin­ci­pals took part in


the sur­vey, the largest of its kind in Aus­tralia.

In 2016, 44 per cent of prin­ci­pals had re­ceived threats in their work­places, with 34 per cent ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ac­tual phys­i­cal vi­o­lence.

The re­port showed there were sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences be­tween sec­tors with Gov­ern­ment schools (33-40 per cent) suf­fer­ing a sig­nif­i­cantly higher preva­lence of vi­o­lence than Catholic (12-18 per cent) and In­de­pen­dent (7-10 per cent) schools.

In 2016, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory (53 per cent) was sig­nif­i­cantly higher than NSW (33 per cent), VIC (29 per cent), QLD (30 per cent), and SA (36 per cent); but not that dif­fer­ent from WA (38 per cent) TAS (39 per cent) and the ACT (48 per cent).

Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor gen­eral Sharyn O’neill called for the com­mu­nity to get be­hind schools to help pre­vent and re­duce vi­o­lence.

“Teach­ers and prin­ci­pals should be able to go about their jobs feel­ing safe,” Ms O’neill said.

“They serve our kids, they serve our com­mu­nity and they shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of the so­cial is­sues in so­ci­ety.”

Ms O’neill said that there were 214 re­ported as­saults against pub­lic school prin­ci­pals in 2015; and four of those were by par­ents, how­ever the def­i­ni­tion of as­sault used in the in­stance was very broad, rang­ing from mi­nor in­ci­dents to se­ri­ous mat­ters re­quir­ing po­lice at­ten­tion.

“We have re­quest-for-as­sis­tance but­tons – known as ‘panic but­tons’ – in about 100 pub­lic schools. All new pub­lic schools have them; when we up­grade se­cu­rity in schools we pro­vide them,” she said.

Ms O’neill said that while the but­tons were in about 100 schools, in the past year they were only used about four times, and there have been some false alarms as well.

“Our se­cu­rity team re­sponds and calls the po­lice in. We thank the po­lice for their quick re­sponse times to in­ci­dents in schools,” she said.

“The is­sue of vi­o­lence in schools is an im­por­tant one [and] I think we need the whole com­mu­nity to get be­hind our schools – we all agree that vi­o­lence is un­ac­cept­able and we want to min­imise it hap­pen­ing on school grounds.”

Im­age: Dept of Ed­u­ca­tion

Re­quest-for-as­sis­tance but­tons are in about 100 pub­lic schools, con­nect­ing to ed­u­ca­tion se­cu­rity when pressed.

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