In a survey of 321 primary school principals, more than a third (37%) have indicated signs of significant distress as a result of their position.
This category of school leaders raised ‘red flags’ by answering questions that indicated they are thinking of self-harming, they have a high combined score across categories, or a series of quality of life indicators that are concerning. Some survey respondents indicated signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The annual health and wellbeing survey, conducted by NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Australian Catholic University, showed that primary school leaders are struggling more than ever. In 2016, the red flag percentage was 20 percent.
Balmoral School principal Malcolm Milner says it is a “sad situation”.
“We should be very concerned as we want to enable people to make good decisions and be positive with children and if there are roadblocks such as these we need to support them.”
New Zealand Principals’ Federation president Whetu Cormick says a major contributor to stress and workload for principals is the teacher shortage.
“Teacher supply issues are directly impacting principals’ ability to lead learning and manage the day-to-day operation of their schools.
“The challenges are everywhere. I’ve recently heard from four Invercargill principals who have been teaching fulltime in the classroom for the past eight weeks. You can’t lead the teaching and learning when you’re in the classroom fulltime,” says Cormick.
The survey comes after a recent report which revealed widespread problems with filling vacancies and getting relievers.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart is frustrated that action has still not been taken on these issues.
“We have made long lists of recommendations, but so far nothing has changed much; in fact it has become worse, as this shows,” Stuart says of the survey.
Researcher Associate Professor Phil Riley says that senior leaders in schools need help, and the education system needs a whole re-design and to come up with creative solutions such as job-sharing.
The survey comes after concerns over an increase in the number of principals leaving their positions.
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh recently told The Daily Post there’s been “an exodus of principals from positions” and that many assistant and deputy principals did not have the desire to become principal as they see firsthand the workload and stress that comes with the job.