SOSNZ surveyed New Zealand teachers about the amount of their own money they spend on school supplies, and the results are astonishing.
In reply to the question “Have you ever spent your own money buying supplies for your own class?”, 100% of respondents said yes.
A huge 86% of teachers said they have spent their own money on supplies every year they have worked, an additional 12% said they have spent their own money most years, and 2% said they had done it a few years. Nobody said they had never done so.
In short, NZ teachers are propping up the school system with their own money.
The survey asked “How much do you estimate you have spent on essential work supplies over your entire teaching career?”, and a stunning 32% of teachers responded that they have spent over five thousand dollars of their own money so far. $5000! That’s a significant sum, especially when we consider the large proportion of teachers that don’t stay in the job for more than 5 years.
A total of 69% said in their teaching careers they have so far spent over $1000, 19% said it was $501-$1000, 10% said $101-$500, and one lucky respondent said they had spent ‘only’ $1-$100. All respondents had spent something.
When asked what they had spent on supplies this year alone (bearing in mind we have only had around 14 school weeks so far), 65% of teachers have spent between $100 and $500. A lucky 4% had spent nothing, and 24% up to $100. But a worrying 4% have spent $501-$1000 and an alarming 2% have spent over a thousand dollars.
Respondents were asked to “Tick all of the things you have spent your own money purchasing for any school while you were employed there”. According to their responses:
93% bought small in-class storage (e.g. tubs, buckets, containers)
91% bought display materials (e.g. borders, background materials, pegs, clips, etc)
88% bought baking and cooking supplies for student use
87% bought pens and pencils for students, and 85% bought them for their own use
Over 80% bought highlighters/vivids/board pens for their own use, posters for display, and maths supplies such as games, dice, cubes, flashcards, clocks, measuring jugs etc.
74% had bought reading books for their classroom, and 74% had bought art supplies. Purchases for topic studies also came in at 74%.
Almost three quarters of teachers are buying modelling books for group and whole-class activities, and over half of teachers have bought students workbooks.
In addition to own-class supplies, 45% of teachers responded that they had spent their own money on supplies for the wider school – e.g. for the library, office, copier room or resource room.
This is a breakdown of all responses:
Pens/pencils for students’ use
Pens/pencils for your own use
Rulers/glue sticks for students’ use
Rulers/glue sticks for your own use
Highlighters/vivids for students’ use
Highlighters/vivids/board pens for own use
Work books for students’ use
Teacher modelling books
Display materials (e.g. borders, background materials, pegs, clips, etc)
Posters for display
Art supplies (e.g. felt tips, crayons, jovis, pastels, paints, paint pots, brushes, glue, craft materials etc )
Small in-class storage (e.g. tubs, buckets, containers)
Large in-class or office storage (e.g. filing systems, cupboards, shelves, drawers)
Soft furnishings (e.g. cushions, rugs, curtains etc)
Seating (e.g. seating pads, chairs, sofas, beanbags etc)
Maths supplies (e.g. games, dice, cubes, flashcards, clocks, measuring jugs etc)
Te Reo supplies
Reading books (fiction, non-fiction, reference)
The above figures show that teachers are even buying furniture for their classrooms.
Just over 50% said they had bought large in-class or work office storage such as filing systems, cupboards, shelves, and drawers. 66% had also bought soft furnishings such as cushions, rugs and curtains, and almost 50% said they had bought seating such as seating pads, chairs, sofas, beanbags for their classrooms.
It’s alarming that so many teachers are having to buy their own essential work-space furniture. Does Ministry account for teachers’ administrative needs when new classrooms are designed? Are insufficient operational budgets being propped up by teachers’ own funds? What’s going on?
The final question in this short survey asked teachers to rate on a sliding scale how they felt about paying for these supplies. The scale was:
(0) Don’t mind at all ——————————————————— It infuriates me (100)
The mean average response was 61 points showing a large level of dissatisfaction with this situation overall, but there was quite a range in the responses: Ten percent said they don’t mind at all (responding 0 or 1), whilst 18% were infuriated (responding 90-100). Of the 18% that were most infuriated, 8% responded 100, the maximum option.
The SOSNZ survey didn’t ask how long the respondents had been in the profession, but it would be interesting to look into whether there is a link between yearly spend and length of service. My suspicion is that new teachers (that are paid the least) are spending most. If that’s the case, it could be a contributing factor in overall job dissatisfaction. This is an important consideration given most teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and may be worth further and deeper investigation.
Teachers are clearly spending significant amounts of money propping up our education system in order to give students what they need in class and to have adequate supplies for themselves, and have been doing so for quite some time. Some overseas teachers responded to this phenomena by removing from their classrooms everything they had paid for, with startling results. I wonder, New Zealand, what would our classrooms look like if we did the same?
This is a further summary of findings from the SOSNZ survey undertaken by Dianne Khan and Ursula Edgington. We ran the survey for 3 months from March – June 2016 when it was closed with a total of 684 participants.
Most of the respondents to our survey worked in the Primary sector (79%), with relatively equal numbers from intermediate and secondary (5% and 6.5% respectively).
A small number of respondents (2.6%) were from Early Childhood and 3% worked in ‘Other’ schools which were mainly connected to provision of Special Educational Need, with some defined as ‘Area’ provision.
The survey did not separate private school from public provision, although this would be an interesting area for further research on the subject.
Probably the most significant question of our survey was Question 5, which asked ‘Whether medically diagnosed or not, have you ever taken time off due to stress and anxiety?’
The results clearly illustrate the extent of the problem of stress and anxiety in NZ schools today: the majority, 54% of respondents (365) answered Yes. 44% (296) answered No, and understandably, due to the sensitivity of the subject, a small number 1% (11 respondents) declined to answer. These results are extremely concerning because no matter how subjective, for a majority of teachers to feel it is necessary to take time off in order to recover from workplace stress and anxiety, there will inevitably be consequences for the health and well-being of staff and potentially for the quality of teaching and learning in NZ.
In line with existing research in this area, those respondents who confirmed they had received a formal medical diagnosis of stress and anxiety (Question 4), numbered roughly equal to those who had not (300 respondents, compared to 355), with 22 (3%) declining to answer.
Responding to Question 3, which asked for examples of coping strategies, 87% of respondents said that when they suffered from stress or anxiety from the workplace, that they tried to ‘carry on regardless’.
This was reflected in the responses to Question 6, which asked how many days have you taken off work, as a result of stress and anxiety? Most respondents (519 or 77%) had only taken 0-3 days off over the past year. 15% had taken 4 – 7 days, with 3% taken 8-12 days and a small minority (5%) 34 respondents having taken more 13 days or more.
The finding that most respondents to the survey ‘tried to carry on regardless’ despite suffering stress and anxiety, is very concerning because knowing where to find and being able to seek out help in times of distress is crucial in order to prevent the situation from escalating. Worryingly (and confirming our findings from the preliminary data of the first 100 respondents) the main resource for public sector staff seeking help – the EAP – was largely unknown: Over 85% of respondents denied knowing anything about EAP. Of the 11% of respondents who DID know that their school subscribed to EAP, they had not used it (although reasons for this are unclear). Only 3% (25 respondents) had made use of the EAP service, either at their past or current school.
Further concerns about the health and well-being of NZ teachers can be seen in respondents’ descriptions of what they DID do when feeling stressed and anxious. In line with other studies on the coping strategies of individuals coping with stress, 39% find solace in comfort eating, 37% try to extend their sleep, 26% turn to drinking alcohol, 7% self-medicate and 6% find that smoking helps them cope. Only 8.5% book a GP appointment which hopefully in turn would help them find different resources of suitable support. Perhaps most worryingly, nearly 2% (11 respondents) admitted to taking drugs to help them cope.
Looking deeper at some of the qualitative data, for some staff, it seemed a culture of fear existed at their workplace, as additional comments included the following theme:
“Everyone is too afraid to take action, as they fear it can affect their future job prospects.”
Similarly, others described the challenge of feeling pressure to hide their emotions :
“Breaking down and having a good cry and then trying to pick myself up and carry on so that no one knows what is happening to me”.
Some of the comments were heart-breaking, for example those who described how they have taught for many years, but now did not have the strength to carry on in a profession who could not offer the support they needed:
“[I’m} Coming to the realisation that this is just how it is and if I didn’t like it then I should have chosen a different profession.”
“Gave up smoking [but] I did not realise how much of a strong coping mechanism it was. This term I pretty much broke down and am now being treated for severe depression. I am truly passionate about children’s wellbeing and education, but I now don’t know if I want to stay in the job.”
“I will be handing in my notice and will not be returning. I have decided to walk away from this career that I have loved for nearly 20 years and I will focus on helping small groups of children because I don’t think I can teach effectively in the current set up.”
Difficult and high levels of workload were common themes throughout the responses to our survey questions. It followed then that sharing tips on how to best manage workload and what to prioritise formed a popular way of coping with stress.
On a positive note, some teachers reported taking constructive steps to reduce levels of stress and anxiety and 40% reported taking exercise – for instance in the gym, horse-riding or going tramping – as a strategic way to relieve their personal symptoms of stress.
Talking with colleagues, family and friends was the most common additional comment in this section of the survey, illustrating the importance of a community of practice and sharing experiences with those around us. This contrasts sharply with the responses from the first part of the survey, where teachers cited as some colleagues and managers as the source of stress and anxiety, rather than being supportive in trying to alleviate it. Similarly, engaging with trivia on social media platforms was also a popular way that many staff found relief from workplace stress. Reading – both academic and creative texts – were also a popular way that teachers coped with feelings of stress and anxiety.
~ Ursula Edgington & Dianne Khan
On Q&A this weekend it was said that the average teacher’s pay is $74k per year. Teachers up and down the country fainted, asking who this average teacher is!
SOSNZ would love to see what calculations were done to reach that figure, because it seems entirely unlikely to be accurate.
The NZ primary school teacher pay scale is here:
Note the top for most teachers, after many years in the profession, is $70,481.
The most you can get, with a Masters, PhD or Honours Degree is $74,460.
The only way to get more than that is to take on additional responsibilities, at $4k per unit.
Given a huge number of teachers leave within the first few years, it’s unlikely that the average wage is truly $74k as was mooted on Q&A.
Mean, mode, median, smoke or mirrors – I’d love to know how that figure was arrived at.
I have asked Q&A whether they can get details of how that was calculated (does it include principals, specialists, RTLBs, etc?). I have also asked Tracey Martin, Chris Hipkins and Catherine Delahunty whether they might ask about it in the House. I will keep you informed.
Tracey Martin MP, Spokesperson for Education – Press Release
New Zealand First wants to protect the title of “teacher” and we will introduce a member’s bill to do so this week.
“The National Government, with support of the ACT Party and Maori Party, continue to amend the Education Act to allow individuals without in depth teacher training to market themselves as ‘teachers’ to parents and students.
“This is an attack on the status of our teachers and is likely to lower the standard of teaching and learning in schools.
“Parents should be 100% confident that anyone using the title of teacher has successfully completed the appropriate qualifications to support their students learning.
“This government has allowed Charter Schools to put untrained and unqualified individuals into classrooms and call themselves teachers. The new Education Amendment Bill will allow well-meaning degree graduates to market themselves as teachers, without in class supervision, after only an eight week Christmas course.
“Under the New Zealand First bill all parents can be assured that if their child has a ‘teacher’ then they are being taught by an educational specialist. By providing this simple method of identification parents truly have choice when it comes to who is leading the learning in their child’s education,” says Mrs Martin.
This is the first of a series of posts looking at the data from the full Health and Wellbeing Survey conducted earlier in 2016. Our earlier posts looked at the survey’s first 100 responses, but this series considers all 684 responses and looks at the written feedback teachers shared in the open comments sections.*
Teachers report high levels of stress, with over 80% of respondents saying they felt stressed or anxious at work half of the time or more. Over 35% said they felt this way most of the time, and a staggering 7% said they felt like this always.
Only three respondents said they never felt stressed, representing 0.44 of respondents.
Teachers were then asked what they judged to be the main causes of any stress, anxiety or depression they felt due to work. A comments box was included. There were 2028 box ticks and hundreds of comments from the 670 respondents to this question.
Clearly workload is a key contributor to teachers’ workplace stress with 79.4% of people identifying it as a main contributor. Pressure from Management was identified by just over half of the respondents, and Students’ needs and students’ behaviour were identified by 44.8% and 45% of respondents respectively.
Lack of support in school was identified as a contributor to stress by just over 31% of respondents; Changes in educational policies stressed over 28% of respondents, and ERO/audit almost 23%.
Interestingly, the comments were sometimes weighted quite differently.
Overwhelmingly, teachers identified workload as a key issue, with 532 respondents ticking that box and a 29 comments specifically mentioning it as a concern.Comments included:
“Not enough time in the day to complete everything that needs to be done. Increase[d] load of paperwork and assessment.”
“Too many meetings… 3 a week…”
“The requirements for tracking student progress; reporting to parents; and engaging family involvement in student learning (to name but a few)…”
“The paperwork (sometimes in duplicate) takes over.”
“Too many tasks to complete in an eight hour day.”
“I feel stressed that I cannot be both a good mum and a good teacher because of workload and being exhausted most of the time.”
“Paperwork, meetings, balance of work and family time”
“When a 55-60 hour week is the exception, not the norm”
Alongside these and other general comments on workload, some specific areas were mentioned:
Professional Development: Comments identified Professional Development as a specific source of pressure, either because of the volume of it (5 comments) or because it is done and then never implemented (3 comments) which staff said left them feeling that precious time was wasted.
“…so little time to create meaningful lessons because of professional development. Always navel gazing and not producing results…”
“we do what is asked of us then it kind of goes nowhere”
“…our school doing every initiative going…”
National Standards and Testing: Also mentioned were National Standards and the volume of testing (11 comments) and fast-changing education policies (3 comments).
“Seemingly back-to-back testing”
“having to assign a below OTJ [Overall Teacher Judgement] to children at 40 weeks, when I know that they will be totally fine by 80 or 120 weeks, they just need a little more time”
“too much assessment of 5 year olds”
A large number of respondents commented on the negative impact of colleagues, mentioning staff bullying (25 comments), poor leaders (16 comments), pressure from management, poor teamwork and disrespectful behaviour (7 comments) and overly negative colleagues (3 comments) as causes of stress and anxiety.
Comments on management:
“Not enough realistic support from management.”
“Principal blaming poor ERO report on teachers… Seeing colleagues depressed and talking of suicide”
“Unrealistic expectations from management that teachers say yes to because they are all scared to tell the truth.:
“We have a dysfunctional senior management…”
“Poor management … lack of communication, lack of follow up…”
“Bullying Principal who has systematically gotten rid of teachers who support the policies and work of the previous principal…”
“Bullied by Principal, DP and AP”
Comments on teams and colleagues:
“Leading a frustrating team…”
“Trying to work with adults who don’t want to change their practice.”
“Being made to feel inadequate by teaching colleagues”
“I am an experienced teacher… I have had derogatory comments… considered a ‘dinosaur'”
“Politics between staff.”
“… have an extremely difficult staff member in my team and am continually handling complaints from parents and other staff about [that person]”
Parents: Perhaps surprisingly, the factor most frequently mentioned in the comments as causing teacher stress was pressure from parents (35 comments), with only two mentions of the lack of parent support being an issue and 33 commenting on this. Comments included:
“unrealistic expectations from parents”
“pushy aggressive parents”
“…expectation from parents that teachers should be able to ‘fix’ students who are not meeting standards… that it’s not part of a parent’s role to assist students in their learning”
“Parents … not allowing their children to develop their key competencies”
“Parents not reading emails, paper newsletters or notice boards and then getting frustrated that they were not well informed.”
“Parent expectation/pressure/lack of support has also been a factor at times.”
Students: It is, perhaps, telling that student behaviour was very rarely identified in the comments as the cause of stress (3 respondents), with much more focus on concerns about meeting students’ educational, emotional and health needs adequately (over 20 respondents). Of these, eight specifically mentioned special educational needs, five mentioned lack of funding or resources to support students as being of concern, and three mentioned out-of-school factors such as poor housing and health concerns.
(This feedback should be considered alongside that relating to testing and National Standards (above), which also had at its heart concern regarding the impact on students.)
“It’s about the lack of adequate funding to resource the support systems we need.”
“We need a calm space in the school…that is manned by a counsellor for our students whose lives are just too challenging today.”
“5 students, 1 supported… others not diagnosed”
“…teachers are parenting, feeding, psychoanalysing children as well as getting the child to national standard”
“hugely diverse needs of my learners … never enough time to plan and deliver a fully differentiated programme…”
“No help for children who come from a terrible home life to school…”
“children with special needs or high learning needs taking ages to be diagnosed at CDC and even longer… before funding is available for extra assistance…”
“Social issues in families and the wider community”
“Having children with special needs who don’t get funding or a diagnosis quick enough to help support them.”
Clearly there are many and diverse, often overlapping, causes of teacher stress and anxiety, but certain themes are evident. Workload is the most glaring issue, closely followed by internal and external pressures on teachers who do not always feel adequately equipped to deal with those pressures or supported in doing so.
Management, you should be querying your own practice and asking where you can make changes to limit stress and also build collegiality. make sure your staff are properly supported and not overloaded, and ensure PD is targeted to actual needs.
Parents, you must work with teachers. They cannot solve all of society’s ills, and it isn’t reasonable to expect them to do so. Also, bear in mind that they are at the mercy of systems and processes usually outside of their control. It’s easy to become frustrated with the messenger, but it isn’t productive. Most importantly, talk to your children’s teachers – form relationships, be present where you can – truly that is a huge step towards helping your child achieve the best they can.
Teachers, please support each other. Teaching can be the most collegial job in the world, and teamwork can be what makes a difficult work situation otherwise bearable. So actively build those relationships. Where you do have concerns, you can call your union’s helpline, contact EAP (if your school is a member), or call one of the other available helplines.
Whatever you do, please reach out for support. You are worth it.
* Thank you to NZEI Wellington Council for providing financial support to allow us to access the full data set and undertake this analysis.
Image of woman with red folders courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Related Posts on this Survey:
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