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Source: Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)

“Three years of COVID disruptions, increasing concerns about climate change and the relentless influence of social media has resulted in increasing numbers of our students feeling vulnerable and anxious. Stress, depression and anxiety cannot be left at the school gate and are not conducive to learning.

“Helping rangatahi realise their potential and giving them the knowledge, skills and opportunities they need to live their best lives are what principals live for. Schools will pull out all stops to help students who are at risk and in need. We need more pastoral staffing in our schools to work with vulnerable students and their families and alternative education services to help them as much as possible to stay engaged with education – once they disengage it’s often very difficult to get them back.”

Kate Gainsford said the report had correctly identified teacher recruitment as another burning issue for principals. “There are serious problems with recruiting graduates into secondary teaching.

Every secondary student deserves  a subject specialist teacher and when schools are not able to provide that, it keeps principals awake at night. The Ministry needs to take its responsibilities for workforce planning very seriously.”

She was not surprised that the report found many principals were concerned about the management of the NCEA and curriculum changes. “The support and resourcing has been slow and piecemeal and teachers and ākonga deserve much better. Of course schools are doing everything they can to make the best of a sub-optimal situation. I sincerely hope that the voices of concern will begin to be heard. We all need to be able to have absolute confidence in our national curriculum and qualification.”

The pressure of these issues on principals aligns with the finding that only nine percent find their workload manageable. “Acute issues with vulnerable students, endless recruitment and having to untangle the NCEA change process chews up the hours in a day, leaving many principals working long hours to keep up. More structured and systematic support for leadership as well as resolving issues with the teacher shortage would go a long way to make workloads more manageable.”

National survey of secondary school principals