School principals in New Zealand enjoy their work, despite high stress levels and underfunding across the board.

Principals also want to spend less time on administrative tasks and more on educational leadership.

These findings are just two from the newly-released New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) National Survey of Primary and Intermediate Schools 2016.

The results also revealed that 92 per cent of principals reported their operations grants insufficient to run their schools and two thirds of principals are using this money to fund additional teachers and support staff. Forty-two per cent report experiencing high stress levels.

Most principals actively sought support for their role, either from paid advisers, their own organisations, or government-funded advice.

“The government support that principals have for their role is more around the management aspects than educational leadership, with little ongoing formal support for educational leadership after the programme for new principals,” NZCER chief researcher Cathy Wylie says.

“The findings raise the question of how we develop and support capable leadership in all schools, and how that capability and experience is used within the whole education system.”

All this comes as no surprise to Whetu Cormick, President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF).

“The profession has been through a tough decade. We have not only seen a reduction in school funding but also a reduction in the status and value attributed to the profession which makes it an unattractive career option. At the same time there has been an increase in the demands and complexities of school leadership,” he says.

“I believe three things could make a difference straight away. These include reducing paperwork and compliance that don’t help young people learn better, increasing the number of leadership advisers available to support principals in their role and giving the operations grants an immediate boost.

“We look forward to discussing these matters with our new Minister, Hon Chris Hipkins,” says Cormick.

The NZCER survey is conducted every three years. Professional learning is one of the areas that has showed the most improvement since the last survey in 2013. This was reflected in teachers’ reports of their main achievements in the past three years.

However teachers wanted more non-contact time to prepare and work with other teachers, to work with individual students, and to reflect, plan, share ideas, or design relevant local learning activities.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart says the survey results reinforce their members’ call to be freed up to teach, and principals to lead, so every child can achieve their potential.

“These surveys show children are missing out on some opportunities to learn because teachers and principals are bogged down in administration or are struggling to get support for children with additional learning needs.

“The new Government has an opportunity to fix the funding crisis that the previous Government left behind, and finally do what works for children’s learning.

“Members have already indicated they’ll want action on time, and pay in their collective agreement bargaining next year,” Stuart said.

The NZCER survey took into account responses from a sample of 349 English-medium state and state-integrated primary and intermediate schools. The survey was conducted from August to September 2016.

The findings have been released in a series of reports, all of which are available on the NZCER website. The research on the NZCER website includes the following studies:

 Schools resources, relations with other schools and support

 Teachers’ work and professional learning

 Principals and their work

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