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Deeply concerning teacher and principal wellbeing findings

A new health and wellbeing survey of primary and area school teachers and principals show action is more urgent than ever, says NZEI Te Riu Roa President, Liam Rutherford.

Alarming findings from NZEI Te Riu Roa’s 2019 survey of teachers and principals in primary, area schools and kura, show that teachers and school leaders report significant job strain and associated negative health impacts which far exceed the general population.

Mr Rutherford says the results are concerning and back up what the sector has been warning about for years.

“The number one focus for teachers and principals is creating the best learning environment for children, but the stress and workload pressure they’re under is making that incredibly hard. Solving this is about learning outcomes for tamariki as much as it is about the health and wellbeing of educators – the two go hand in hand,” says Mr Rutherford.

“New Zealanders would have heard us talking consistently about teacher and principal workload during our collective negotiations last year, and the data in this survey starkly illustrates our concerns.”

We’ll be using this data to continue our work on workload and wellbeing as part of our Accord with the PPTA and Ministry of Education, but these findings point to a need for real urgency.

“From all of the conversations I’ve had with members, the stress of workload and associated health impacts are big issues for our schools. They’re crucial to solve for the sake of tamariki and their learning.”

The 2019 survey, carried out by Deakin University, was the first year that teachers took part and the fourth year for school leaders.

Thirty percent of teachers reported experiencing violence in the classroom. The data also showed that the second year is the most stressful year of a teaching career, consistent with research across the globe.

Teachers scored slightly worse than school leaders in all health and wellbeing measures, with burnout and stress being the two most worrying. Both teachers and school leaders scored significantly worse than the general population in all these measures.

However, this is the first time in four years of surveying school leaders that the level of many stressors has diminished, most significantly “sheer quantity of work” and “lack of time to focus on teaching and learning”.

Work-family conflict is still significantly higher for school leaders than the general population, particularly for women. 27% of school leaders are working more than 60 hours per week.

The survey was conducted in 2019, prior to the Covid-19 crisis. Mr Rutherford says that this year’s survey is currently underway, and its findings will be more important than ever given the challenges educators have faced.

Read the full report here.

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