Key issues for principals in 2017

15 February 2017

The latest annual Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey Workload was released yesterday, and confirmed what the QTU’s school leader members already know: workload, resources and support are key issues for principals.

The survey highlighted the increasing complexity of the role and the stresses placed on principals working not only as educational leaders but also having to take on increasing administrative loads.

It is that complexity and high level of professionalism that the QTU will be highlighting in the review of the classification system for school leaders that was negotiated in the last EB. The QTU and DET have already begun meeting to establish the review’s process, and in term one this year an analysis of work value and comparative remuneration levels with other states will proceed. QTU school leader members will be contacted to provide both input and feedback as the review progresses, to be completed by 2019.

The survey shows that the two greatest sources of stress for principals are consistently the “sheer quantity of work” and “lack of time to focus on teaching and learning”, with 55 per cent of respondents working an average of 51 to 56 hours per week, and 27 per cent worryingly working up to 65 hours per week.

Workload reduction is a key focus for the QTU, not only in the industrial space of EB negotiations but also in professional negotiations with DET. One of the key outcomes for school leaders was the QTU/DET joint statement on the purpose and use of data in Queensland schools.

This statement has put the brakes on “data for data’s sake” that adds to workload without providing educational benefit. That includes giving school leaders, particularly with the backing of their LCCs, the ability to push back against excessive data demands from the regional or departmental level.

If QTU members are experiencing unreasonable demands on data collection, they should contact their regional organiser in the first instance.

Further demands are made on principals as a result of political decisions. The survey makes the point that politicians know about politics, not about education. It also makes a strong case that education policy should be beyond politics, built on the shared expertise of stakeholders, and free from the vagaries of short-term political cycles.

The damage caused by politicising education policy has been obvious in the years since the Gonski review of school funding was released. School funding is now one of the most battered footballs in the political field, and so schools and their leaders have been left with inadequate guarantees about resourcing.

Most of the media coverage about the survey in the past 24 hours has focused on violence directed towards principals. The QTU takes the position that violence or aggression of any sort, including verbal abuse, has no place in any school, and will continue to support school leaders through the most appropriate means, whether it be industrial or legal.

Further, the QTU will continue working with DET on its “Respect our staff, respect our school” campaign, including a focus on parents’ attitudes towards teachers and principals. While the headlines are grabbed by incidents of physical assault, an insidious influence on students’ behaviour can be the way their parents talk to them about school staff.

If school leaders want to contact the QTU for advice or assistance, we recommend emailing or contacting the Queensland Teachers’ Assist Desk on 1300117823.

Feedback to QTU

If you want to find out how to provide feedback to the QTU, on the review of the classification system or other issues, email

DET Principals’ Conference

The QTU will have a presence at the forthcoming DET Principal Conference on 1 March – 3 March. QTU Senior Officers, as well as other officers, will be available to speak to you at the QTU stand.

 Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union