School principals are in crisis as they endure long hours and struggle to manage their workload, a new report has found.

About two-thirds of principals worked 56 hours or more each week, and 42 per cent reported high or very high stress levels.

Only around a third of principals thought their workload was manageable or sustainable, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research found.

Experienced principals, often in larger schools, were less likely to report high stress
levels than newer principals who are often in smaller schools. They also seem to have more ability to focus on educational leadership, which may be related to the higher levels of internal support in larger schools.

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At the same time, 90 per cent of principals enjoy their role, chief researcher Cathy Wylie said.

"The findings raise the question of how we develop and support capable leadership in all schools, and how that capability and experience is used within the whole education system."

Around 92 per cent of principals found their level of operational funding to be insufficient. Just under half reduced their spending.

Two-thirds of principals were using their operational funding and locally raised funds to
employ additional teaching staff. Schools mainly used additional staff to teach classes, support literacy or numeracy, or support students with additional learning needs.

The proportion of schools having difficulty finding suitable teachers had doubled since 2013, to 41 per cent. It was more than twice as hard for low-decile schools to find staff compared with high-decile schools.

Wylie explained that lower decile schools were more likely to be affected by student mobility and transience.

This has an impact on school resourcing because of the uncertainty about staffing, and the cost of establishing programmes to support students who change schools
unexpectedly during the year.

Professional learning was one of the areas that showed the most improvement since the last survey in 2013. This was reflected in teachers' reports of their main achievements in the past three years, which showed gains in meeting the needs of priority learners.

However teachers wanted more non-contact time to prepare and work with other teachers, to work with individual students, and to reflect, plan, share ideas, or design relevant local learning activities. They had around one hour a week, which was similar to previous years.

NZ Educational Institute Te Riu Roa stated that children were surffering as a result of teachers and principals being denied the time to teach and lead.

President Lynda Stuart said their members had already indicated they will want more time and pay in their collective agreement bargaining next year.

"These surveys show children are missing out on some opportunities to learn because teachers and principals are bogged down in administration or are struggling to get support for children with additional learning needs.

"The new Government has an opportunity to fix the funding crisis that the previous Government left behind, and finally do what works for children's learning."

The NZCER survey got responses from a nationally representative sample of 349 primary and intermediate schools. The survey was conducted from August to September 2016.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said: "It's good to get this feedback, which reinforces what we have been hearing and what the policies in our manifesto are designed to address.

"We will be focused on starting to put these policies into action over the coming months."