COVID-HL School Principal Survey

Leading schools in times of crises

Working situation and health of school leaders

Beyond the impact on educational development and outcomes, school closures are associated with increased health risk and negative consequences and worse health outcomes for children and adolescents. Since the pandemic started, some research has been conducted in child and adolescent populations. However, there is very limited research available exploring the effects of the pandemic on school and educational professionals. This is surprising given that school teachers are exposed to a whole new working situation and environment with numerous challenges they have to master (e.g. shift in teaching and learning due to the pandemic), associated with an increased likelihood of negative health outcomes for teachers as well as students. Even less attention is paid to school principals, who are responsible for all aspects of the school life and therefore have to cope with particularly high demands as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pre-pandemic research shows that school principals report high work-related stress and more frequently psychological and physical burden compared to other professional groups. In addition, it is well known that there is an association between teacher health and teaching quality. In this context, the COVID-HL School Principals Survey aims at exploring burden and stress that school principals and school administrators (e.g., deputy principals or members of the school management team) experience in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the study focuses on the following research questions:

  • What is the level of work-related stress for school principals during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How are school principals dealing with work-related stress?
  • To what extent school principals apply maladaptive coping strategies at the workplace?
  • What is the mental health situation of school principals?
  • What is the relationship between the current working situation of school principals and their mental health?

Health resources of school leaders and health promotion in schools

Supported by the World Health Organization, the Health Promoting School (HPS) is considered the most promising approach to promote and maintain good health and wellbeing in the school setting. In contrast to behavioural interventions, the HPS framework is rooted in a determinants-based and structural approach, referring to a holistic intervention approach in which health is promoted in a systematic and asset-based way. In context of school closures and restrictions, the question arises whether and to what extent health-promoting measures are currently undertaken by the school.

In addition to the implementation of health promoting activities, there are a number of other (work-related) resources: Health literacy, the ability to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information, has shown to be highly relevant to navigate the complex information environments and to deal with the over-abundance of information in relation to COVID-19. Moreover, previous studies found an association between health literacy of school principals and the degree to which health promotion activities are implemented in the school setting. Sense of Coherence (SoC) is the main concept of the salutogenesis theory and can be described as a global orientation towards viewing one’s life as comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful. SoC is particularly relevant in stressful and demanding situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore a useful capability for school principals. A positive attitude towards work is regarded as an important health resource that enables an individual to better cope with stress and burden (e.g., stress and burden resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic). Therefore, in addition the following research question will be pursued by this study:

  • What is the SoC level of school principals in the time of COVID-19?
  • What is the level of corona-specific health literacy among school principals?
  • Are there any associations between SoC and health literacy and school principals’ health?
  • What school health promotion measures are implemented in schools during COVID-19?



Worldwide, 11 countries were involved in the COVID-HL-School Principal Survey.



So far almost 6000 school leaders completed the COVID-HL-School Principal Survey



So far, 13 scientific papers have been published and more are in preperation.

Main goals

Work situation & stress

Assess the work situation and stress arising from work of school principals during the COVID-19 pandemic

Health information & literacy

Explore information satisfaction, attitudes and health literacy among school principals during the COVID-19 pandemic

School health promotion

Capture activities on promoting and maintaining the health of pupils and school staff during the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal health situation

Asess the health of school principals and the health needs of pupils & teachers in times of the COVID-19 pandemic

Countries involved


Professor Kevin Dadaczynski

Fulda University Fulda

Professor Orkan Okan

Technical University Munich

Professor Melanie Messer

University Trier

China and Hongkong

Professor Angela Yee Man

Polytechnic University Hongkong

Ass. Professor Padmore A. Amoah

Lingnan University

Dr. Sam Lau

Hong Kong Baptist University


Professor Venka Simovska

Aarhus University

Dr. Rune Müller Kristensen

Aarhus University


Ass. profesor Evanthia Sakellari

University of West Attica


Assoc. professor Guglielmo Bonaccorsi

University of Florence

Ass. professor Chiara Lorini

University of Florence

Assoc. professor Veronica Velasco

University of Milano-Bicocca


Assoc. professor Carmel Bouclaous

Lebanese American University


Ass. Professor Karina Leksy

University of Silesia

Professor Mariusz Duplaga

Jagiellonian University Krakow


Professor Anita Sandmeier

PH Schwyz

Professor Guri Skedsmo

PH Schwyz

Simona Betschart

PH Schwyz


Ass. professor Duong Van Tuyen

Taipei Medical University

Professor Chih-Feng Lai

National Taichung University of Education

Assoc. professor Sheng-Chih Chen

National Chengchi University

Professor Cheng-Yu Lin

Shih Hsin University


Professor Sibel Sakarya

Koç University

Ass. Professor Pınar Soylar,

Firat University

Dr. Özlem Öztürk

Ankara University

United Kongdom

Dr. Emily Marchant

Swansea University

Professor Susie Sykes

London South Bank University

Professor Gill Rowlands

Newcastle University


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