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‘Kicking, biting’: Why teachers are fed up

Stressed School Teacher
More than half of principals have the intention to quit their roles by the end of the year. Picture: Stock

Australian school leaders are dealing with the highest rates of physical violence and bullying for more than a decade, a shocking survey has uncovered.

More than half of school leaders and teachers have reported being threatened with violence by students and parents, as revealed by the Australian Catholic University’s annual Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey.

Of the school leaders who had experienced physical violence, a shocking 96 per cent of them were subjected to it by students.

Such recorded instances of violence have increased by 77 per cent since 2011.

Instances of violence against teachers have increased by 77 per cent since 2011.
Instances of violence against teachers have increased by 77 per cent since 2011. Picture: Supplied

There were several identified categories of violence in the survey, including threats of violence, physical violence, sexual harassment, unpleasant teasing, conflicts and quarrels, cyberbullying, gossip and slander, and bullying.

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The survey attributed the damning rise in violence primarily to angry parents and unruly students, and it also showed school leaders suffered higher rates of anxiety and depression than the general population, with early career school leaders most at risk.

As such, the survey made the chilling revelation that 56 per cent of principals intended to quit their roles by the end of the year.

Young Tired Female Professor Having Headache
Teachers are under the pump like never before. Picture: Stock

Former school principal and survey investigator Paul Kidson said some parents were taking “every opportunity to shoot down” teachers and principals, giving their children permission to do the same.

“We’re seeing increased instances of …(students) lashing out, kicking, biting, punching. I spoke to someone who had a child tear a chunk of hair out of her head,” Dr Kidson told the Herald Sun.

“Too often, there will be a guilt that principals feel because they’re just trying to give so much of themselves.

“It’s an Olympic year, but you don’t get medals for that type of work.”

Percentage of Victorian participants who reported offensive behaviour in 2023:

Sexual harassment:

2%

Violent threats:

39.7%

Physical Violence:

35.4%

Bullying:

33.3%

Unpleasant Teasing:

6.1%

Conflicts Quarrels:

57.6%

Gossip & Slander:

47.1%

Cyber bullying:

25.9%

 

Percentage of Australia participants who reported being at the receiving end of offensive behaviour from parents:

Sexual harassment:

39%

Violent threats:

65.6%

Physical Violence:

19.7%

Bullying:

57.9%

Unpleasant Teasing:

28.1%

Conflicts Quarrels:

64.5%

Gossip & Slander:

65.1%

Cyber bullying:

88.5%

 

Percentage of Australia participants who reported being at the receiving end of offensive behaviour from students:

Sexual harassment:

37.3%

Violent threats:

79.7%

Physical Violence:

96.3%

Bullying:

13.2%

Unpleasant Teasing:

35.4%

Conflicts Quarrels:

32.4%

Gossip & Slander:

18.2%

Cyber bullying:

22.8%

Source: ACU’s annual Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey

One principal, who wished to remain anonymous, said in the survey she often felt like she hated her job.

“Most nights when I am awake I will count how much longer I have to work before I retire or think about what else I could do instead of this job,” she said.

“I often feel like I hate my job.”

Bored and tired teacher touching temples suffering from headache
Dealing with the violence is negatively impacting teachers’ health. Picture: Stock

Another principal said the burden of the job had negatively impacted her health.

“I am very unwell at the moment (physically) and I have also suffered six months of ongoing bullying and harassment within the school and community in which I live because I have had to make difficult decisions about people’s performance, conduct and the operations of the school,” she said.

“Whilst I am more than aware that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, I have been ground down by the almost constant negativity, nastiness and violence within our community.”

Instances of violence against teachers have increased by 77 per cent since 2011.
Many principals intend to quit their jobs by the end of the year. Picture: Supplied

Minister for Education Jason Clare said “all school leaders and teachers should be safe at work”.

“We are working closely with state and territory governments, principal groups, unions and experts to continue to tackle the teacher shortage crisis, which has been 10 years in the making,” Ms Clare said.

“The next National School Reform Agreement we strike this year will also prioritise reforms that support teacher wellbeing and work to attract and retain more teachers.”