SOUTH-West school principals are facing increasing stress levels and workloads beyond the state average, according to unions.
A survey of 49 principals between Warrnambool and Geelong has found half are stressed in the job while 79 per cent don’t think they have enough resources for programs like reading recovery.
The Australian Education Union (AEU) says the department has added to the woes by cutting 100 positions across the region, that principals previously relied on for professional support.
AEU primary sector vice-president James Rankin said the positions had given “principals somewhere to go when they have a critical incident, like a death or injury. Where they would have called the regional office, now those positions don’t exist”.
“They just don’t get the advice or the support that they used to,” the union leader said.
Last year’s zoning shake-up saw nine regions reduced to four. Barwon South-West was expanded to include western Melbourne, Ballarat and the Grampians.
Local principals now rely on regional headquarters in Footscray.
Approximately 82 per cent of school leaders said their workloads had increased, compared to the state figure of 76 per cent.
Warrnambool Primary School principal Peter Auchettl said there were still people in the department to turn to but added “there’s just less of them”.
Mr Auchettl estimated he worked an average of 11 hours a day, starting at 7.15am and working past 6pm.
“I stop counting ... some nights it’s a school council meeting and I work till half past nine.
“It’s not the hours you spend, it’s the complexity of the job.”
Timboon P-12 School principal Rosalie Moorfield said stress levels had jumped “rapidly” over the last 12 months.
“I would certainly know colleagues at the present who are on stress leave,” she said.
“The support we have is excellent but the number of people we can turn to has rapidly decreased.”
A spokesman for the Education Department said the Coalition government was “supporting principals by cutting red tape and administrative burdens from schools”. “Supporting the health, safety and well-being of our principals is one of our top priorities. Principals can access free counselling through our employee assistant program to assist them to manage any issue in their personal or professional lives,” the spokesman said.