He waka eke noa, We are all in this together.
Strike action was the last thing we wanted to do, but NZEI kaiako members want to send a message to the government about how serious we are in the need to value our profession.
Cost of living rises are a major factor, but the bigger factor for our Kaiako is that if we are to retain and attract quality educators we must improve work conditions. I want to draw your attention to some NZEI findings from kaiako and tumuaki collated via a survey. These findings pre-pandemic are now likely much worse.
Hours worked during school term
Primary school teachers in New Zealand work very long hours. Almost half work more than 50 hours per week. Primary principals work even longer hours. 70% reported working more than 50 hours per week. A large proportion reported working more than 55 hours a week (45.5%) and around one in five school leaders (19.9%) reported working more than 60 hours per week. Too many teachers and principals are working hours that place them at high risk of experiencing adverse psychological and physical health outcomes.
Stress at work
In this survey, the sheer quantity of work was reported as the biggest source of stress for primary school teachers and principals alike. For both groups, a lack of time to focus on teaching and learning was reported as the second biggest stressor. In both years of the survey (2019 and 2020), these two stressors have far exceeded the other sources of stress listed in the survey. The next biggest sources of stress were related to student learning needs and access to support. Concerns for student mental health were also high on the list for both teachers and principals.
Demands at work
The survey tests for five variables related to demands at work and assesses these against the general population. The five variables are Quantitative Demands, Work Pace, Cognitive Demands, Emotional Demands and Demands for Hiding Emotions.
In 2020, New Zealand primary school teachers and principals reported experiencing all five demands at work more often than the general population. Both groups reported experiencing more work than they can complete and regularly having to work at a fast pace. They regularly deal with emotionally challenging situations (emotional demands) and frequently must conceal their emotions at work (emotional labour).
Primary school teachers reported various types of student-related issues as significant sources of stress. Student behaviour and learning issues and a lack of support to deal with students’ additional needs caused teachers stress. Principals reported that resourcing needs and teacher shortages were significant sources of stress. They were also concerned for the mental health of their staff.
Access to support
While a lack of access to resources such as learning support was a source of stress for teachers and principals alike, both groups reported receiving support from professional relationships with their colleagues, suggesting that this is a major factor in helping teachers and principals’ cope. However, this is not enough as the evidence shows that high job demands and low job resources may cause job strain and eventually result in burnout.
Too many teachers and principals are under significant stress and working hours that place them at high risk of experiencing adverse psychological and physical health outcomes. This result has serious implications for the long-term future of school
personnel as their work is creating significant work-life stress. These findings should cause considerable concern for policymakers. We need to increase teacher supply and decrease teacher workloads to enable teachers and principals to do their work in a sustainable way. We also need to increase the provision of, and access to, learning support to ensure that our tamariki are best equipped to reach their potential.
As a kura, we appreciate your support for our jobs. Our new collective negotiations continue to highlight the need for better pay, release to do our jobs well, better resourcing for high and complex needs and a profession that is desirable and continues to have the best people in the profession.
We thank you again for the continued support of our fantastic kaiako.