The demands placed upon employees in their roles have long been thought to be important in predicting employee well-being and in reducing the risk of anxiety and depression, increasing cardiovascular functioning and reducing employee burnout. The present study sought to examine the job demands of rural, regional and remote educational leaders. Demand ratings were generally lower for regional areas than rural areas and lower for rural areas than remote areas. Higher qualifications and experience were associated with lower demand ratings. Participants in desired areas rated themselves under lower demand than participants in undesired areas and participants who were undecided about the desirability of their locations. These findings have important implications for the selection, preparation and support of leaders in non-metropolitan contexts.
Keywords Principals, leadership, leadership training, stress variables, rural schools, rural areas
There is a growing body of evidence that school leadership plays an important role in a variety of school, teacher and student outcomes (Fuller, Young, & Baker, 2011; Hallinger & Heck, 1998; Heck & Hallinger, 1999; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2000; Mulford & Johns, 2004; Orr, 2011; Orr & Orphanos, 2011; Prestine & Nelson, 2005; Riehl, 2000; Roach, Smith, & Boutin, 2011; Waters, Marzano, & McNulty, 2003). In particular, links have been established between school leadership and progress toward substantial school improvement (Orr & Orphanos, 2011), as well as indirect links between principals' preparation and student outcomes (Fuller et al., 2011).
If school leaders' well-being and performance are to be improved, it is important to identify areas of school leadership that place demands (physical, emotional and psychological stressors; see de Jonge, Mulder, & Nijhuis, 1999) upon school principals. Qualitative studies have indicated that the demands placed upon school leaders are many, complex and contextually dependent (Clarke, Stevans, & Wildy, 2006; Wildy & Clarke, 2005). The 2008 Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) OECD Report Improving School leadership Activity Australia: Country Background Report (Anderson et al., 2008) indicates that small schools, especially prevalent in rural areas, pose unique problems for leader preparation. In Queensland for example, few first-time teacher principals have any experience of the multi-age teaching typical of such settings, only 30% of them undergo formal induction to their roles, and turnover after one year in the role is high (Clarke et al., 2006). In Western Australia, commencing teaching principals in small rural schools, especially women, often reported that they were ill-prepared to deal with conservative values, intrusive pressures to integrate and general lack of community trust (Wildy & Clarke, 2005, p. 52). Despite qualitative descriptions of the high demands of school leadership in rural, regional and remote areas, little attempt has been made to construct a consistent scale of job demand that can quantify and compare the relative demands across educational contexts. Such is the primary purpose of this study.
The general effects of the demands placed upon people in various jobs have been extensively examined (e.g., Johnson & Hall, 1988; Karasek, Baker, Marxer, Ahlbom, & Theorell, 1981; Pelfrene et al., 2002; Sanne, Mykletun, Dahl, Moen,...