Student mental health impacted by staff cuts

Cutbacks in schools have left teachers and principals unable to care for the pastoral needs of their students, including their mental health, a second-level teaching union claims.

Student mental health impacted by staff cuts

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland claims a moratorium on school middle-management posts is undermining supports. The union commissioned a Millward Brown poll of 1,749 teachers and principals. 82% of principals said the moratorium undermines pastoral care structures. Some 40% of principals said Department of Education guidelines on student mental health are not adequately implemented.

“Schools have lost an average of six middle-management posts (known as posts of responsibility) since 2009,” the union said. “These posts are focused on student pastoral-care structures and include year heads and class tutors, whose responsibilities, typically, incorporate student attendance, student engagement, and monitoring of students at risk.”

The research, carried out in February, found teacher workload had increased — 80% of teachers said they have more administrative duties than last year.

“Being able to help young people is a key driver of job satisfaction amongst second-level teachers. Almost 90% identify it as a key source of job satisfaction, while 49% say it is the one main source of job satisfaction,” the union said. “However, job satisfaction levels are relatively low; 55% of those surveyed say they are ‘very’ or ‘quite’ satisfied with their job, compared to 77% in 2009.” ASTI president, Máire G Ní Chiarba, said the wellbeing of young people is a major public health concern and widely reported in the media.

“However, it is not a priority when it comes to education policy,” she said. “Supporting students’ wellbeing and mental health requires more than procedures and guidelines. It requires adequate ‘human’ resources at school level. The very resources which students need to support their wellbeing have been greatly diminished in schools.”

Earlier this month, members of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation voted for industrial action over the ban on promotion in schools.

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