Jewel Topsfield; September 15, 2010
VICTORIAN principals are fed up with monster workloads and the state government's failure to properly support students with disabilities.
Less than three months from a state election, a survey shows that principals' assessments of both the state government and the Education Department are the most negative since 2005.
Unsustainable workloads dominate their concerns about their personal situations - principals work an average of 59 hours a week - while the lack of resources for disadvantaged students is their chief gripe about their schools.
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More than 70 per cent of government principals told the Australian Education Union's annual State of Our Schools survey that the Education Department's support for students with disabilities was less than adequate.
While the department ''spruiked'' inclusion as a policy, it had also made it more and more difficult to access programs for students with a disability, the survey found.
Some principals said they desperately needed more teacher aides, speech pathologists and psychologists, while another said it was ''frustrating'' not to be able to run ''essential'' programs such as Reading Recovery without going into deficit.
''The new disability and impairment funding requirements relating to autism are a farce. I have a severe-behaviour Asperger's child and I can't get any support financially,'' said one of 534 principals surveyed.
The survey comes as the union launches its own website - www.myschoolneeds.com.au - with a five-point plan for public education in Victoria. ''Rather than attempting to demonise underperforming students, this site will focus on what schools need to support them and ensure they reach their potential,'' said state president Mary Bluett.
A spokesman for Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said the department provided principals with access to counselling and management advice.