Primary school workload ‘more stressful and hectic’

Primary school teachers are under an increasing amount of stress in the workplace, according to research which shows the extent of the problem.

Primary school workload ‘more stressful and hectic’

Some 90% of primary teachers say their job has become more “stressful, demanding, challenging, and hectic” over the last few years. Despite this, half of teachers describe their work as satisfying and worthwhile.

The majority say they are still highly motivated and would like to be involved in planning at school level.

The report was published by the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) and authored by Mark Morgan of Dublin City University. More than 300 primary teachers responded to the survey, which asked them to identify the challenges faced in the workplace over the last five years, or since they started working.

Overall, the study noted a greater demand for documentation, school policies, and improvement plans, and demands on schools to solve wider societal issues.

More than 95% of teachers say additional administration and documentation has become a problem for them in recent years, while more than 86% say schools have become more bureaucratic. A similar percentage says these factors are having a negative impact on teachers’ morale.

When asked what changes would help increase job satisfaction for teachers, 91% said less documentation would go a long way towards making teaching less stressful while 93% said curriculum overload needed to be addressed, along with the re-instatement of promotion opportunities.

The overwhelming majority of teachers also want to see better support services for children with special needs and say that this would certainly make their jobs not only less stressful, but also more satisfying.

Greater administrative support was listed as one of the main factors that would help with their increased workload.

While the report strongly indicates primary teaching has become more stressful in the last five years, it does not regard recent policy changes as a factor in this.

Neither the literacy and numeracy policy nor the use of standardised tests in schools seems to have had an effect on the stress levels of primary teachers.

Meanwhile, Tom Healy, director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute, said it was “immoral, economically irrational and fiscally irresponsible” to talk of cutting income tax when 3,000 children are waiting more than a year for urgent speech-and-language therapy.

Speaking at the annual INTO congress in Ennis, Mr Healy said the “damaging and unnecessary scale and composition of cuts to public services” during the recession have taken their toll.

“It is clear that the fiscal, employment, and debt crisis of 2008-2013 is not entirely over and continuing restraints and difficulties will arise in addressing the burden of public and private debt,” he said.

“No senior bondholder was left behind but many children were.”

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