Teachers opting for relief work over full-time positions due to heavy workload

Berhampore Primary School principal Mark Potter says the whole sector needs to sit down and look at how teacher workload ...
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Berhampore Primary School principal Mark Potter says the whole sector needs to sit down and look at how teacher workload can be managed.

Experienced teachers in Wellington are opting out of full-time work because they are feeling burnt out by increasing workloads.

Amesbury School in the suburb of Churton Park recently advertised for a teacher to fill a release role, looking after classrooms while other teachers took time out of the classroom for administration and planning.

The primary school's principal, Lesley Murrihy, said she and her team were stunned by the number of experienced teachers who applied.

Amesbury School principal Lesley Murrihy says she was stunned by the number of teachers applying for a job providing ...
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Amesbury School principal Lesley Murrihy says she was stunned by the number of teachers applying for a job providing release time at the school who said they were tired of full time teaching.

During the interview process they had similar stories, saying they were "simply tired" and wanted to "get off the treadmill".

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"So much has been brought in that has dramatically increased teacher workload," Murrihy said.

New Zealand Educational Institute spokeswoman Louise Green says teachers are trying to be all things, to all people, and ...
ROBYN EDIE/STUFF

New Zealand Educational Institute spokeswoman Louise Green says teachers are trying to be all things, to all people, and it's not sustainable.

She agreed with changes to education, as they promoted equity and all children being successful, but there needed to be the resources to match.

The Government paid for teachers to work a 40-hour week, but gave them a workload that was much bigger.

Teachers found it harder and harder to have a life outside the schoolyard. They could not reduce workloads without reducing outcomes for kids, which they did not want to do, but it was something they could work towards, Murrihy said.

"It sits on your shoulders, and your back, all the time."

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Berhampore Primary School principal Mark Potter agreed, saying he had seen experienced teachers apply for similar roles for years.

"I don't think people realise how hard it has got for teachers."

Very good teachers were opting to do day-to-day relief teaching, which meant they did not have to do assessments.

Potter feared that, in the future, schools would struggle to have an experienced workforce.

"We are losing a lot of experienced teachers – we can't afford to do that. We need young teachers through to very experienced old hands. We need to look after people who have been there a while."

The answer might come from the whole sector, not just the Ministry of Education, sitting down and working out how teachers could do the job without working overtime.

"We need to look at how we're leading our schools, and what kind of staffing can meet these new needs."

New Zealand Educational Institute spokeswoman Louise Green said teachers were trying to be all things to all people, to get the results expected from within the community, the school, and also the Government and society as a whole.

This heaped constant pressure on top of their sense of moral purpose to do what was best for children, she said.

"People get to a stage where you can only sustain that for so long."

Karl Le Quesne, acting deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement at the Ministry of Education, said a survey published by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research last year showed fewer teachers reported workload issues than in 2012. 

There were ongoing challenges, but the ministry was working with the sector, he said. One example was the Workload Advisory Group, which had already helped make changes.

The annual 'lapse' rate - the measure that shows teachers leaving or taking a break from teaching - was about seven per cent.

 - Stuff

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