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Assaults on Teachers and Principals on the Rise

With approximately 50% of Australian Principals experiencing or witness to physical violence in schools, how do schools draw a line and take a zero-tolerance approach? According to “The Australian Principals’ Occupational Health and Wellbeing Survey, 2023”, school principals have reported the worst recorded levels of physical violence, threats of violence, and bullying in the thirteen-year history of Australian Catholic University’s Annual Report. Offensive behaviour towards school leaders (and teachers) persists and appears to be on the rise. Physical violence has increased by 76.5% since the survey began in 2011.

Notwithstanding this alarming data about violence in schools, teachers still report their top two stressors as the “sheer quantity of work” and “lack of time to focus on teaching and learning”.

In a workplace where stress is already high, the increase in violence is a major concern, with teachers and leaders already protesting with their feet and leaving the profession.

The data strongly suggests that initiatives to reduce violence in schools are not working. Whilst schools need to draw a clear line and implement a zero-tolerance of violence policy, how do they do this and remain inclusive? Violence and inclusion contradict.

Reform is urgently needed in education, health, and human services, where the school, mental health, disability, and child protection providers can collaborate and work to find a solution to this problem.

Dysregulation morphing into violence, that includes a child / adolescent engaging in unsafe practices, is a shared responsibility between the family, and the education, health, and human services providers. The authority to manage that dysregulation and violence is located external to the school. Schools cannot participate in any circumstance that is tolerant of violence, and schools cannot accommodate children / adolescents who engage in unsafe practices. Violence in a school is unacceptable and the safety of all students and staff in a school is paramount.

Most schools now find themselves in situations where they are responsible for managing dysregulation and violence they have no authority to manage or resolve. Authority is a person or organisation’s capacity to change or stop something. Schools do not have the statutory authority to respond to violence and are relatively impotent. Difficulties become entrenched when a person or organisation front-loaded with responsibility, backed by limited authority, attempts to solve such a problem. Violence and child / adolescent safety are matters to be referred outside the school and addressed elsewhere. Schools are places of education and learning, where teachers have been trained to deliver on that education and learning, not psychological services. Schools cannot be responsible for matters outside of their jurisdiction about which they have limited decision making authority.

At bower(schools) we work with schools and families, and with education, health, and human services providers and practitioners, in relationship to the education and wellbeing of students (children and adolescents) with high and complex (support) needs. We help schools to implement protocols to encourage and manage collaboration between all systems of support available to a child,  protocols to manage violence, protocols to build leadership and teachers’ confidence in dealing with complex situations, and much more.


To learn more about bower(schools) visit bower(schools).

For a conversation regarding how bower(schools) can support you and your school community book a free Schools Support Assessment meeting here.

To read more articles and to learn more about the protocols used within bower(schools) sign up for bower(knowledge) here:

To read the report in full here by “The Australian Principals’ Occupational Health and Wellbeing Survey, 2023”

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