Increased stress pushing principals away, departing school leader says

Lepperton Primary School principal Charles Gibson says he has been congratulated by other principals for getting out of ...
SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF

Lepperton Primary School principal Charles Gibson says he has been congratulated by other principals for getting out of the profession.

The principal of a top Taranaki school has resigned after 12 years in the role - and says other school leaders have congratulated him for getting out of an increasingly stressful profession.

Charles Gibson is one of five Taranaki principals and deputy principals leaving their posts this year.

While Gibson said he was mostly leaving Lepperton Primary School because it is "the right time to do something a little different", he warned the stresses of the job, national standards, and a lack of respect for teachers from the Ministry of Education had all been contributing factors and were putting others off taking up top positions.

A number of Taranaki principals are stepping down.
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF

A number of Taranaki principals are stepping down.

"It is making people think twice about becoming a principal," said Gibson. "I know many principals who have congratulated me for getting out."

READ MORE:
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Lepperton School gets $6.5m rebuild

There could be many varied reasons why there were so many school leadership positions open in Taranaki, but stress, disillusionment and workload probably played a part, Gibson said.

Michael Carr said while the demands on principals have increased, many industries also have heavier workloads.
CHARLOTTE CURD/STUFF

Michael Carr said while the demands on principals have increased, many industries also have heavier workloads.

"It is getting increasingly difficult to find teachers, I know that. I think many are beginning to think that relieving is a viable option because of the unreasonable workload and the pressures from the Ministry of Education (MOE) and their communities."

Primary schools have also been put under increasing pressure due to national standards, he said.

"We have children with increased anxiety levels and this is manifesting itself in different ways. I think there are higher stress levels throughout our communities and this directly affects principals, teachers, support staff and students."

Roz Miller says she has seen principals' workloads grow in her 16 years in top jobs.
ROBERT CHARLES/STUFF

Roz Miller says she has seen principals' workloads grow in her 16 years in top jobs.

He said there is also an increasing lack of respect for educators.

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"Many teachers and principals are feeling increasingly undermined not only by government and MOE but by some who feel they know better about how children learn."

He would like to see the end of national standards, he said.

"Have the MOE support and respect us. Part of their brief should be to make our job easier. We need more wraparound support for our children at risk without having to spend ten hours on an application.

"One of the biggest frustrations I have had is with the MOE and the rebuilding of our new school. It has been about eight years since approval and in that time it keeps going over budget and still not a single piece of dirt has been overturned."

The school was given $3.7 million government funding towards replacing leaky buildings in 2015 after an almost six year wait, which was later topped up to $6.5 million for a complete rebuild.

Another Taranaki principal, Bell Block school's Roz Miller, is leaving her nine year post at the end of this year to focus on her role as a leadership advisor with Evaluation Associates, which is contracted to the MOE to support mostly beginning principals.

"They have recognised that it is a complex job and it's got many facets to it," she said.

She said the demands of the job had grown in her sixteen years as a principal.

"It has become more, there are different demands, but our most important role is leading learning.

"They've recognised that more support means that people would be more effective and that they would stay in the positions longer as well."

New Plymouth Principals' Association president Michael Carr said there was no doubt the demands on principals had increased, including behaviour and learning challenges and paperwork.

"There's a number of factors for that, but...people are making decisions around that life/work satisfaction," he said.

He said technology had made everyone more accessible, and there was a lot more to the learning process of children, which was fantastic, but it did increase the teachers' workloads.

He was not concerned about the number of school leadership vacancies currently in the region.

"I think over a period of time there's cycles. Personally I wouldn't read a whole lot into that."

 - Stuff

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