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Many school principals feel isolated, and more than half would appreciate help in curbing violence and improving the atmosphere in classrooms, a recent survey indicates. Also, two-thirds of the principals surveyed want help in boosting teachers' professional skills and work commitment.

The survey, the first of its kind, was conducted by the Avnei Rosha Institute, a new principal training facility funded by the Education Ministry and Yad Hanadiv - the Rothschild foundation.

The survey was conducted during the previous school year among 1,560 principals - about half the principals in the education system - in order to assess principals' needs. The figures suggest that many principals feel isolated in their jobs and want help and guidance in many fields, including improving the general atmosphere and instituting changes at schools.

Additionally, the survey notes that 51 percent of principals said they needed help in planning and overseeing teaching, 54 percent needed help in making internal changes and 54 percent needed assistance in improving schools' "educational climates."

Further, 66 percent said they were interested in receiving help to improve teachers' professional skills. Only a quarter of the principals said they needed help in school management or budgetary issues.

The survey distinguishes between new principals, who have been in their job up to two years, and veteran administrators. The newer principals more often said they needed help than did their senior colleagues, in most areas. However, when it came to improving teachers' professional skills, the differences between the two groups were relatively small.

"Due to the great isolation in this post, our job at the institute is to foster the principals as a professional community," says Avnei Rosha director, Yehudit Shalev.

"To a large extent, today's principal is developing his expertise in blood, sweat and tears. There is a lot of professional know-how and experience in this area of work, but it is not passed on to the education system in a sufficiently consistent and professional manner," Shalev says.