Half of primary school principals stressed - survey

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 18:01 05/05/2014

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Teachers and principals of primary and intermediate schools are "being stretched too thin", a new survey suggests.

The three-yearly New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) 2013 survey found 72 per cent of principals and 74 per cent of teachers reported their morale was high or very high. That was down from 87 per cent for principals and 86 per cent for teachers in 2010.

High or very high stress levels were reported by 48 per cent of principals, up from 37 per cent in 2010.

Just 29 per cent of principals thought their school's teaching staff entitlement was adequate, down from 48 per cent in 2010.

That was perhaps linked to greater expectations that schools would raise student achievement, NZCER said.

Only 11 per cent of principals thought their school's operational funding was enough, unchanged from 2010.

Dr Cathy Wylie, an author of the report on the survey, said the results suggested primary and intermediate teachers and principals were "being stretched too thin on the job".

Overall, principals reported working 56 to 60 hours a week, little changed since 2003, despite increasing demands on school leadership. That suggested nationally there was a limit on the time people could actually give to the multifaceted principal role, the report said.

In 2013 primary and intermediate principals were less involved in teaching students than in 2010, suggesting it had become harder for principals to carry out their school leadership and management responsibilities if they also taught.

The survey was carried out last July and August, with 180 principals, 713 teachers, 277 trustees and 684 parents taking part.

Principals in 59 per cent of cases indicated their schools competed directly with other schools for students.

Enrolment zones appeared to protect the rolls of some schools while allowing them to take students from other schools' areas, with 41 per cent of schools with enrolment zones taking at least a fifth of their students from outside their own zone.

Sixteen per cent of primary principals were spending more on marketing or other aspects of their school than they would like in order to encourage enrolment, NZCER said.

On ICT use, the survey found some of the more collaborative e-learning envisaged by The New Zealand Curriculum seemed to have taken a backward step since 2010.

In 2010, 14 per cent of teachers said their students never used ICT to collaborate with others inside the school on shared projects. In 2013, it was 32 per cent.

Use of ICT to collaborate with others outside the school on shared learning projects was never used by students of 27 per cent of teachers in 2010. In 2013, 40 per cent of teachers said their students never did so.

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ICT was being used most often for tasks that could be completed by individual students.

Among teachers, 58 per cent reported students were using ICT often for practising specific skills such as maths or reading. That was up from 38 per cent in 2010 and 22 per cent in 2007.

The second-most common use for ICT was searching for information on the internet during class, with 42 per cent of teachers reporting it being done often. That was only marginally ahead of 2010 and up from 29 per cent in 2007.

- Fairfax Media

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