Primary Principals call for reality check

Catholic primary school principals surveyed by their professional association have complained of increasing expectations that they maintain involvement in parish activities that can distract them from running their schools.

The Age quotes an extreme example of a female principal "expected to cook for priests at weekends as well as bake cakes and serve tea and coffee after Mass".

The report in today's paper is is based on the results of Principals in Parishes, a study commissioned by the Australian Catholic Primary Principals' Association (ACPPA), which represents 1700 members across Australia.

The Age says that the study found that parish activities had intruded so far into the lives of principals that the next generation had chosen not to apply, creating a looming crisis in leadership succession at schools.

It said principals were expected to attend parish meetings at night and at weekends that often had nothing to do with the management of their schools.

Priests are the legal operators of Catholic primary schools across Australia, while principals manage the schools' daily business. The study found that a declining number of priests and an absence of guidelines about the role of principals in parishes has led to priests placing extra demands on school leaders.

The problem is most acute in small rural towns, where principals are often expected to provide counselling for parishioners and help organise funerals when a priest is unavailable.

The burden of parish activities is also taking a toll on the family life of principals, according to the study.

ACPPA president Brian Lacey (pictured) said unclear expectations about the role of principals have created inconsistent employment conditions.

"The pressures on our principals are huge, and if this inconsistency continues we are going to burn people out," he said. "If we don't try to come to some arrangement with our employing authorities and priests we are going to lose good people."

The survey results analyse responses from 715 principals nationwide and data from focus groups held in every diocese. It recommended that church leaders and principal groups should jointly develop guidelines to clarify the role of principals in the school parish.

Executive director of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, Susan Pascoe, agreed there was a need to clarify boundaries between schools and parishes. She said principals in the Archdiocese of Melbourne are generally not burdened with extra duties but it is a problem for those in country areas. She said many parishes are employing assistants to lighten the workload of parish priests.

Principals pull plug over parish pressures (The Age 24/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Primary Principals' Association

New schools open (The Border Mail 23/5/05)

24 May 2005