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Helpline for principals keeps experts busy

AUSTRALIA.

STRESSED-OUT school principals in New South Wales can now unburden themselves by calling a government hotline.

The telephone hotline is staffed by experienced primary and secondary principals and is open every day of the year.

By last December, the service had helped nearly 400 of around 2,000 principals across the state. An education department spokeswoman said advice was provided on issues such as teacher performance, staff and student problems, resolution of complaints, health and personal matters.

She said the 105 new principals this year had been told about the service.

One recent survey found that nearly nine out of 10 teachers said they would never become a principal because of the stress and lack of job satisfaction.

The Australian Secondary Schools Association said applications for principal posts across the nation had plummeted and there was a worldwide shortage of teachers prepared to lead a school.

Some New South Wales principals say they have been threatened with violence by "feral" parents. They also complain that the education department makes too many demands of them, especially regarding the health and safety of staff and students.

The hotline scheme is part of a A$1 million (pound;360,000) package that includes professional training for principals and streamlining administrative procedures.

"Principals have become all things to all people," state education minister John Watkins said. "They must take on the roles of financial administrators, community advocates and conflict-resolution experts."

Last week he announced that New South Wales was sponsoring a national project to support principals in their roles as school leaders.

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