An overwhelming body of research is highlighting the excessive stress faced by staff in New Zealand’s education sector. We believe this is a critical challenge, requiring immediate attention at multiple levels.
An important research project in this area is The New Zealand Primary School Principals’ Occupational Health and Wellbeing Survey (commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa). The project was overseen by Dr Philip Riley (a former school Principal and tertiary educator), he is also Chief Investigator for The Australian and Irish Principals and Deputy Principals Health and Wellbeing surveys which heavily inform the Wellbeing Toolkit. (Since the Australian project began, approximately 40% of the country’s 10,000 principals have taken part.)
In addition to directly exploring the health and wellbeing of school leaders, the survey has important implications for all staff and broader school communities. The research project aimed to conduct a longitudinal study monitoring school principals and deputy/assistant principals’ health and wellbeing annually. Wellbeing in different school types, levels and size was also monitored, along with lifestyle choices such as exercise and diet and the professional and personal social support networks available to individuals.
The research acknowledges that principals, deputy/assistant principals and teachers are New Zealand’s nation builders. They need to be well resourced, not just logistically, but also emotionally and intellectually. The Finnish experience suggests that if we too can make courageous decisions about our national future we can also make it happen. It is time we began the conversation in earnest.