Deputy principals deserve better
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 2, 15 March 2019, page no. 18
It turns out that a greater element of my time is spent dealing with human factors such as the complexity and demands of interpersonal relationships between staff, students and parents, and demands of wellbeing and welfare.
The time involved in dealing with such issues is exacerbated by the systemic, administrative requirements associated with them. The issues themselves involve situations for which no training is built into the promotional process, making trying to resolve complex personal issues more stressful than they would be had deputies been provided with some form of skills training.
The nature of the issues and the time involved in providing support is far more stressful than I had imagined. Even though I have only been in the position for a few years, it is apparent that many of my current duties were, until recently, regional or head office responsibilities. The most obvious example of this would be the reality that schools source required teaching and support staff along with the management of some financial and structural responsibilities. The expectations for data management and improved performance outcomes are also an additional layer that demand time and application.
The PPCR provided an opportunity for recognition of the actual role deputy principals play within the school structure. Far from just an advisory position to the principal, or even just managers of routine procedures, deputies play a systemic and critical role incorporating procedural, administrative, pastoral and guardianship duties. Being deputy principal involves a level of responsibility and accountability in a workplace involving hundreds and sometimes thousands of people and commensurately large budgets running into millions of dollars.
Deputy Principal, Mackay SHS
As a deputy principal in a low-socio economic, Band 7 school in the Metropolitan Region, I am working in a very complex situation, which is intensely demanding on me both professionally and personally.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow me to be as involved in leading curriculum as much as I would like to due to the social-emotional needs of my students and the wellbeing of my staff and community preoccupying my agenda and daily work demands. Stress and exhaustion are my reality with most of my time being taken up with managing student (and parent) behaviour as a result of significant generational trauma in our community. This is often confronting and relentless.
Working in a small urban school with significant complexity, I can see that we need a realistic and fair way of identifying similar schools who may not have been entitled to a deputy principal position based solely on enrolment numbers. The current situation does not recognise this, which places a huge burden on principals and staff in complex communities who have to function effectively without assistance in the administration layer of their school. It makes me wonder how my school would function without my position and the support it provides.
Another hope is for a restructuring of the deputy principal classification so that we are all equal. When I worked in a larger school as a deputy I was paid at a higher rate, yet the complexity of my role was in no way comparable to my current location, where I am paid less. I shared the workload with another deputy and had their collegial support when needed. It was much easier than being the sole deputy principal, yet I was paid incrementally more.
Likewise, there shouldn’t be a difference between primary and secondary contexts. It shouldn’t matter whether I choose to work as a deputy in a primary or secondary setting, however under the current classification we are considered different and renumerated differently, despite having the same role description.
I love my job. I know that I make a difference to my complex community through the work that I do and the relationships I build for the betterment of my students. As society changes, so do the demands on us as educators. This must be reflected within the Department of Education through regular processes like the PPCR to support us in coping with this change at the coalface and adapting to it.