Queen's University IRC

School Administrators’ Perspectives on Labour Relations: Survey Results and Analysis


Brendan Sweeney
Queen’s IRC Post-Doctoral Fellow

July 1, 2012

School administrators are extremely important to Ontario’s publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools. While much focus is placed on their role as educational leaders, their duties as the frontline supervisors of teachers and educational support workers is often overlooked. The IRC has thus engaged in significant research related to the roles, responsibilities, and relationships of principals and vice-principals in the area of labour relations.

This report is based on a survey of school administrators in two regions of Ontario. It probes several areas, such as administrators’ perspectives on the labour relations environment, the relationships between administrators and staff, the role of administrators in conflict management and dispute resolution, and the potential effectiveness of labour relations-focused professional development for school administrators and other education sector stakeholders.

The results of the survey yield several conclusions. First, the labour relations environment is perceived by school administrators to be better in individual schools than in school boards or in the education sector as a whole. Second, school administrators generally have good working relationships with most other stakeholders, but these relationships have deteriorated in the recent past. Third, school administrators prefer to manage conflict and resolve disputes within their school, but are often left out of the process by school board managers and union representatives. Fourth, there is a general consensus that labour relations-focused professional development for school administrators would benefit the education sector. It also appears that the labour relations environment in school boards that provide such professional development are amiable and conducive to student and teacher success.

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