Secondary school principals are warning of a major shortage in the sector in the coming years as stress forces more people to leave.
Less than one-third of secondary school principals and deputy principals expect to still be in a leadership role in just five years’ time, according to new research conducted by the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD).
The research identifies a broad range of issues for those in leadership roles at secondary schools and warns that many of those currently employed as principals or deputy principals do not see themselves in these positions in just a few years’ time.
The new report, ‘Wellbeing of Leaders in Post-Primary Schools in Ireland’, was published ahead of the NAPD’s national symposium on school-leader wellbeing, workload, and work-life balance, which takes place today in Dublin.
The symposium will focus on the sustainability of school leadership while also examining the requirement for increased supports and resources.
According to the research, 48% of principals and deputy principals experience “a lot” of stress, 39% experience moderate stress, while a further 13% cite a little stress. In addition, the research suggests that school leaders’ wellbeing increases year-on-year until they have been in the same role for 10 years, at which point it plummets.
Among the biggest sources of stress for principals and deputy principals is dealing with people and cultivating positive professional relationships (44%). Other sources of stress include external agency engagement and administrative responsibilities.
The research found that the three most stressful responsibilities are managing employee relations, new teacher and substitute teacher appointments, and financial management. The survey found that better distribution of workload, additional administrative support, training and skills enhancement, and improved salaries would all help the job more attractive.
Clive Byrne, director of the NAPD, said: “Late last year, my colleagues and I predicted that the next emergency in education would be a shortage of secondary school principals. The role of a modern principal is akin to running a complex business, and school leaders are looking for support. They are navigating rapidly-growing student populations and evolving student and staff needs without the required parallel government investment or support.”
Mr Byrne said that many teachers are put off applying for senior leadership roles when they see the stress and pressure endured by colleagues: “This issue of recruitment and retention of school leaders is only going to become more acute in the years ahead.”
“It’s critical that we look to address the causes of this stress and identify potential solutions and supports, including increased administrative support, training, and skills enhancement.”