Schools Our organising principals

We know this has been a challenging and unprecedented time for all educators, but particularly for school leaders. Many of you are juggling the demands of your key role running schools while also fulfilling teaching duties, and some of you are dealing with the emotional demands of caring for your school community and your own children at home.

The confused messages from the Morrison government making repeated calls for Victoria to reopen schools – against the advice of the Victorian Chief Health Officer – has exacerbated the stress of what was already an uncertain situation for parents and teachers alike. Managing community expectations has been a huge challenge, and we acknowledge the enormous effort you have all made in keeping the system running.

Our member support centre has taken calls from some principals distressed about the pressures this situation has put on them and their school communities. They are managing on-site and off-site staff, responding to technology failures, fielding media calls, rostering staff, responding to family concerns, supporting wellbeing of students at risk, setting up remote school council meetings, monitoring curriculum development, and managing communication via email, phone, WebEx and so on with families, staff and others.

The health and wellbeing of you and your staff has to be paramount. Just because we are teaching and working in a remote way – and dealing with a host of new challenges – does not mean the usual challenges we face day to day have gone away. We need to recognise that educators have not had the Easter holiday you’d normally have. For those of you in bushfire areas, this came on top of a highly stressful summer break.

We have had positive feedback from principals about how proud they are of their staff for the way they have embraced the new remote learning platforms and for continuing to deliver quality teaching and learning for students.

This year has been uniquely difficult and disrupted, which means that your health and wellbeing have to be at the centre of your decision-making. The Department of Education and Training has announced useful streamlining and/or postponement of a range of usual processes, including PDPs, school reviews and AIPs, among many other things.

We have been advocating on your behalf to ensure the department recognises that schools cannot be expected to run as normal. We have supported AEU PCA members to understand and advocate for their needs and concerns. We will continue to do this.

Some members are more vulnerable than others due to their age and health; these members have a right to be safe, like any other DET employee. We have also continued to advocate for OHS to be properly observed and implemented for those taking part in the on-site program and for those working at home.

Additionally, we have encouraged PCA members to report their concerns on Edusafe; we have encouraged assistant principals to ‘bypass’ the principal on the Edusafe form in order to ensure that the regional director (and principal class designated workgroup, where they exist) has access to the concerns.

We have been pleased to hear that many principal and leadership teams, along with other staff, have generously shared the time spent on-site, in order to look after each other’s health and safety. We have had positive feedback from principals about how proud they are of their staff for the way they have embraced the new remote learning platforms and for continuing to deliver quality teaching and learning for students.

Times like this emphasise the importance of a collective approach, working as a team to maintain health and wellbeing for all. We look forward to coming back together after this crisis to share what lessons have been learned. What has working from home told us about our teaching practices? How have school leaders managed working remotely with staff?

Attending PCA meetings is always an important activity, with regional meetings continuing online for Term 2. There is much to discuss about how we can support you through COVID-19, plus the log of claims and our progress towards a new Schools Agreement.

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    Australia's public education system is open to everyone. That's why it deserves the support of every Australian. AEU members working in public education continue to do the heavy lifting within the education system, doing more with less, fighting for equity, and seeking the best possible outcomes for their students, often against the odds. Read more in our Term 2, 2023 edition of AEU News.

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