As we embark on a new academic year, a follow up to a 2017 health and well-being survey has found that teachers, and education leaders, are under more pressure than ever before.
Unsafe working hours, students with high levels of learning needs and increasing workloads are being blamed for high levels of ‘burnout’ among teachers and management staff in schools.
NZEI President Lynda Stuart says there are “disturbingly high” levels of stress and burnout amongst teachers, principals and other education leaders.
Ms Stuart blames a shortfall in support for students with learning and behavioural needs as a factor contributing to the “deeply distressing” level of stress being placed upon those in the teaching profession.
According to Ms Stuart, this shortfall is placing a high amount of pressure on school principals, who are spending 53-58 hours per week to keep on top of their workload.
An independent, in-depth health and wellbeing survey of primary school principals and senior leaders has found that school leaders suffer 1.7 times the rate of burnout, 1.8 times the rate of stress and have trouble sleeping at 2.4 times higher rate than that of the general population. These figures have caused concern that there may be serious implications for the long-term health of those in the teaching profession, and that this may lead to difficulty recruiting and retaining school leaders.
Mayfair School Principal Ricardo Fox says it is important for principals to create a culture of collegiality to help combat the stressful lifestyle. He says school leaders need to be supported to help create an environment where teachers have a balance between their work life and their personal life.
“Staff need to feel supported and know that they are not alone in the role. Teachers and principals need to be listened to as professionals by the government. We are using every avenue to support each other and lessen the load.”
“It is increasingly more impossible to have a work/life balance and you actually have to be mindful to take that time to ensure you have a personal life and don’t take work home with you,” Mr Fox adds.
Ms Stuart is calling for more support in areas of learning support, stating that it would make a hugh difference for children as well as principals and teachers.
Mr Fox agrees that more support is needed in schools to deal with the pressure.
“We seem to have an ever-increasing and alarming number of kids in schools that are requiring behavioural and learning support. This affects teachers, principals, middle management, leaders of SENCO, RTLBs and Board of Trustees. I believe this is putting more pressure on the Ministry of Education.”
As a principal, Mr Fox adds that he believes the government need to put measures in place to support the Ministry to assist education professionals with this issue.