The Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement is full of interesting and bemusing information. Take clause 2.10 1, for example…
“2.10 1 The normal hours of work hours of work for employees should as far as practicable not exceed 40 hours per week Monday to Friday”
“Employees shall work such hours as may be reasonably required of them… whether or not such hours exceed 40 hours per week.”
Full-time primary school teachers generally have 25 hours a week contact time in the classroom, plus lunch and break duties, staff meetings, professional development meetings, planning and preparation to do. For most, that’s feasible within 40 or so hours… but what about the rest?
What about planning? Marking? Making resources? Meetings with support staff? Parent/teacher conferences? Report writing? Planning trips?
What about meeting with RTLBs, speech therapists, Child and Adolescent Mental Health teams, or other specialists?
Or attending overnight camp? Running extra-curricular clubs? Setting up and running exhibitions of students’ work Production evenings?
Putting up and taking down displays? Fundraising events? Compliance stuff for the Education Council?
So which bit of clause 2:10 1 takes precedent? The “40 hours” bit or the “such hours as may be reasonably required of them” bit?
At what point does the workload stop being reasonable?
For the Secondary Teachers’ Collective Agreement 2015-2018, see here.
In this third and final invited blog post about the outcomes from the SOSNZ survey on NZ teachers’ experiences of stress, anxiety and depression, I comment on another of the common themes from the results: bullying.
Teachers spend significant energy on preparing and delivering lessons, managing their classrooms and helping students who, for complex reasons, may have difficulties with learning activities, concentrating or getting along with others. For every teacher, continuous pressure from these situations increases risks of suffering from anxiety, emotional exhaustion, stress and depression. And each teacher and teaching context is different.
But what happens when the main cause of stress and anxiety isn’t within the classroom, but outside it? This may be more difficult to overcome because by definition stressful situations like being the victim of bullying are unpredictable and concealed from others.
Often research and policies surrounding bullying prevention in schools are focused on the students rather than the staff and management. But the culture of bullying in the workplace is known to be a significant problem in New Zealand and this is increasingly evidenced in media and employment law.
Allan Halse, Director of Culturesafe NZ – an organisation set-up to raise awareness of legislation and support victims of bullying – believes
“…this problem will increase until there is more accountability. For instance, there should be consequences for all employers who choose to ignore or maintain the behaviours of workplace bullies.”
A large proportion of CulturesafeNZ’s clients are employees within the education sector.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, 10% of the initial 100 participants from our teacher survey commented that bullying – either from management or parents or both – was a major cause of their stress and anxiety.
In the initial 100 responses, additional anonymous comments highlighted teachers’ experiences of stress as a result of being bullied: “The pressure placed on teachers by management in planning and assessment and time management for teachers” or more specifically “A principal can make or break staff” and similarly: “The pressure from management and their unrealistic expectations of their staff”. I predict that when analysis is complete for all 700+ participants, the extent of the bullying problem in New Zealand schools will become more apparent.
Generally, the prevalence of workplace bullying links to commonly debated cultural issues of the New Zealand workplace, for instance the phenomenon of Tall Poppy Syndrome (something I’ve written briefly about elsewhere). What is worrying (as highlighted in my previous post) is that teachers in this survey commented how they did not draw upon (or even know about) coping strategies or helpful free resources like the EAP. In view of the gap in academic literature on this subject, it appears the Ministry are sweeping this problem under the carpet. The NZCER run a survey which includes aspects of bullying, but there is a cost of subscribing. This skews the outcomes because understandably only those principals who see a value to publishing their own school’s results are likely to engage with it. Costs of participating in the NZCER survey are based on numbers of students in the school – which is unhelpful because an analysis of workplace culture would not necessarily be connected to its size – for students or staff.
In light of the new Health and Safety Act in New Zealand (which brings NZ more closely in line with other developed countries) some believe workplace bullies will be exposed and subsequently prosecuted. But WorksafeNZ do not (yet) seem to have fully grasped the well-established links between bullying and the emotional harm it causes; concentrating instead to focus their attention on the more obvious bodily harm, caused by physical workplace hazards.
However, teachers need help, support and protection from all sources of stress, anxiety and depression, and this includes bullying and harassment in the workplace. This is important, not only for the well-being of the staff themselves, but also for students because, let’s be clear, students learn best in a safe, caring and professional environment.
~ Dr Ursula Edgington
Primary school principals are enthusiastic about supporting a new charter guaranteeing a fair go for newly graduated primary teachers.
Many who get work at all are getting relief work or short-term positions, which often means they don’t receive the support and mentoring they need for full certification within six years of graduating.
NZEI President Louise Green said this was a concern, “because if we want great teachers for our children, teachers need to be well supported from the beginning of their career.”
The charter guarantees that any beginning teachers the school employs will receive the induction and mentoring support they are entitled to. The school also commits to never employing new or beginning teachers on a trial or otherwise illegal fixed-term basis.
“Signatory schools receive a certificate and window stickers to show they support beginning teachers. It sends a very strong, positive message to a school’s current and prospective teaching staff,” said Ms Green.
The Education Council and New Zealand Principals’ Federation have expressed their support for the charter. Positive conversations have also been held with the Ministry of Education.
Ms Green said the charter was about creating a shift in practice and awareness, but the long-term answer to a lack of permanent jobs for new graduates depended on the Ministry of Education undertaking workforce planning, which was sorely needed.
A survey of newly-graduated primary teachers has revealed massive underemployment and many beginning teachers in a state of stress, despair and debt.
NZEI’s New Educators Network spokesperson, Stephanie Lambourn, said there was a shortage of primary school jobs available and it was particularly difficult for new graduates, as not all roles were suitable for beginning teachers.
The Ministry of Education’s own figures show that just 15 percent of beginning teachers are getting fulltime, permanent teaching jobs.
Ms Lamborn feels fortunate to have secured a permanent role at Lower Hutt’s Avalon Intermediate, but many of her peers have spent a year or more unable to secure anything other than short-term contracts or a few relieving days.
“It’s incredibly stressful to have that sort of job insecurity,” she said.
“Even if a teacher gets a contract for a term or two to cover maternity leave or roll expansion, they are constantly having to look ahead and apply for new roles. They aren’t able to focus on giving their best to their class and are frequently missing out on the induction and mentoring they are supposed to receive as beginning teachers.”
NZEI Te Riu Roa surveyed 374 teachers who had graduated within the past five years or so.
Fifty-one percent of those surveyed reported that the requirement to reapply for positions had had a negative impact on their teaching.
Of those surveyed, 79 percent were provisionally certificated. Graduates have five years to gain full certification as teachers and this requires them to receive induction and mentoring from a senior colleague. When teachers are unable to get fulltime work, it becomes extremely difficult to meet the requirements of certification.
NZEI TE Riu Roa President Louise Green said the Ministry of Education needed to make workforce planning a priority and ensure that beginning teachers were getting the support they needed. Schools also needed to ensure that they weren’t unlawfully offering or extending fixed term positions to “keep their options open” when they should be offering permanent positions.
“It’s a devastating waste of their time, passion and money to earn their teaching qualification but not be able to get reliable work at the end of it – not to mention the wasted cost to taxpayers for their training,” said Ms Green.
“Many of our baby boomer teachers will be retiring in the next few years, and what will happen then? These beginning teachers can’t wait around forever and if they’re not getting the experience, induction and mentoring they need, who will fill the gap?”
Hello all. Happy 2016, and sorry I’ve been somewhat absent, but amusing a 6 year old banshee full time is (as most of you know) not for the faint hearted, and so I’ve been somewhat distracted.
I was hoping to have another few days before I burst into action. I even avoided posting about the charter school shenanigans from last week. Perhaps I’ll reflect on that one later. For now, I want to share with you some thought on our unions…
I’ve seen a few people over the years saying they don’t know what they pay their union fees for, what’s the point joining, and so on. I saw another such comment this week, and it got me thinking that people really must not be aware of how bad things were before unions. Do people truly not know what huge benefit they are to workers? Perhaps not.
I guess if one has never worked in a non-unionised profession and seen the difference, it’s easy to take what benefit they bring for granted.
So, for those not in the know, here are just a few of the benefits of being in a union:
Wages: Your union works hard to get and maintain decent pay for us. If you think we are underpaid now, just look at the information on wages for non-unionised workers, for example…
PD: Your union provides professional development year-round. Did you know you can apply to your local branch to go on any of the union’s courses and the chances are they’ll be able to fund it for you or contribute? Coming up soon are the Pasifika Fono, the New Educators Network hui, to name but two great events. And there are all these ones. Go on – take advantage of this free and fabulous union PD.
Information: Your union keeps up to date with all of the changes and proposals relating to education and shares that information with you via branches, emails, press releases, social media, and meetings. Read the emails, check your branch’s Facebook page, go to meetings – make use of what is there. Because although the union does all this, you still have to make the effort to read it and be involved. It’s worth it.
ACET: This was hard fought for by NZEI, so that expert teachers would not have to take up management positions if they wanted to earn more but could stay in the classroom and teach. Members wanted it, the union got it. And it was achieved through hard bargaining.
Release time: This is another thing that was fought for and won. There was a time when there was no release time. That time could easily come again if the unions become weakened.
Legal help: If you need legal help, your union is there, whether the problem’s large or small. And all for FREE.
Advice: The unions’ helplines are there to help with all work-related queries. They are free and only one call away.
Death Benefit: When an NZEI union member dies, the family gets a lump sum from the union. Other unions may also do this – it’s worth checking.
Annual Conference: Amazing speakers, brilliant networking, loads of professional development and sharing, and all paid for by the union. Flights, mileage, accommodation and food. Again, ask your local branch if you want to go. Last year was my first one and it was well worth going.
I get that there are frustrations – I’ve had my own gripes – but here’s the thing; the union is only as good as its members. If something’s not working for you, tell them.
If we want the union to be strong, we must add our own strengths to it. In much the same way that teachers cannot tip information into a student’s head and make them learn, the union cannot help a member who doesn’t participate.
Or, to butcher an idiom, they can lead us horses to water and even ensure it’s drinkable, but we still have to tilt our own heads down and slurp.
Read the emails, go to meetings, pick up the pamphlets on the staff room coffee table.
Trust me, it is worth it.
NZ Union websites:
E tū: http://www.etu.nz/
NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter says this situation has been building for a number of years because the Government has continued to ignore what was a very predictable market failure in education.
“The Government has known for years that there has been a growing oversupply of newly graduated teachers yet it has refused to do anything.
“As a result there are now hundreds of beginning teachers who cannot complete their full certification despite investing years of time, energy and money into gaining qualifications.
“This is extremely unfair for those graduates but it will also have long term damaging consequences for education.
“Many new teachers are now employed on day to day or short term relieving jobs where they don’t get the professional development, skills and mentoring required to help them become great classroom practitioners.
“So the long term consequences for quality teaching and learning are clear”.
Paul Goulter says there are solutions.
“Obviously better workforce planning is needed for a start. But graduates should expect to have the right support in place so they can complete their registration process.
“This happens in other sectors such as in medicine where graduates are provided with work and mentoring in order to complete their qualifications”.
He says it is totally irresponsible for the Government to continue to ignore what is becoming a major system crisis in education.