Teachers feel unsafe in own class

By Amelia Wade

Survey finds workloads are hurting morale and many feel threatened, especially in lower-decile schools.

Teachers' workloads were becoming heavier because of the demands of NCEA. Photo / Getty Images
Teachers' workloads were becoming heavier because of the demands of NCEA. Photo / Getty Images

The morale of teachers is dropping as they struggle under an ever-increasing workload because of NCEA and feel unsafe in their own classrooms, according to a report.

The national body for secondary teachers says it is vital the sector receives more funding and support to help ease pressures before educators walk out of the profession.

But the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, said a number of the concerns raised were being addressed.

More than a third of secondary teachers think their workload is so heavy that they are unable to do justice to the students they teach and morale has dropped more than 10 per cent since 2009, according to a survey of 1266 secondary school teachers.

The Council for Educational Research's report on the state of our schools also found 22 per cent of all secondary teachers have felt unsafe in their own classrooms and 33 per cent in the school grounds and public areas.

The lower the school's decile, the more unsafe teachers felt and the worse students' behaviour became.

Half of teachers from decile 1 and 2 schools who responded to the survey said they felt unsafe in their school grounds and buildings at least occasionally, compared with 34 per cent of those in mid-decile schools and 23 per cent in high-decile schools. These numbers are unchanged from the last survey in 2009.

ACC figures show that last year teachers made 5714 workplace injury claims - of those 280 were struck by a person or animal, 136 were pushed or pulled, and 132 reported being struck by a tool or implement.

President of the Post Primary Teachers' Association Angela Roberts said behavioural issues reflected the community a school was in.

"The reality, whether we like it or not, poorer communities are struggling more and they're stressed. The decile funding system, while it is a very blunt instrument, it does at least give a nod to the fact those communities need more support."

Ms Roberts said dropping morale was not good enough and that more needed to be done to change this.

Teachers' workloads were becoming heavier because of the demands of NCEA, particularly those of internal assessments, she said.

The survey found many teachers were also grappling with the alignment of official secondary school qualification standards with the New Zealand Curriculum.

Class sizes needed to be smaller, resources had to be increased and the sector needed more funding in order for the amount of work to be reduced, she said.

"We're in our jobs because we enjoy them, but that's not sustainable. You can't rely on heroism to save the schooling system, you have to support it."

Ms Parata said a number of the concerns raised by the education sector in the national survey were being addressed through various programmes.

"The Government invests a lot in the teaching profession, including over $300 million in professional development. Issues around workloads were part of the recent pay negotiations with the unions which have been settled."

Ms Parata said the number of teachers who felt unsafe in their classrooms was "very concerning". To help alleviate that, the Government had increased the funding for Positive Behaviour for Learning to $145.3 million over four years, a 78 per cent increase. "Teachers' morale is very important."

Classroom challenges

percentage of teachers who believe these issues are a problem:
Funding 60 per cent
NCEA workload 58 per cent
Adequacy of ICT equipmentand internet access 54 per cent
Motivating students 48 per cent
Assessment driving thecurriculum 48 per cent
Student behaviour 44 per cent

Source: 2012 NZCER survey

- NZ Herald

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