School leaders have experienced a steep decline in wellbeing since 2014, with 39% of primary and post-primary Principals being diagnosed with stress-related medical conditions in 2022, according to new research.
The three-year longitudinal study, which aims to offer policy insights to the Department of Education, is being led by Professor Philip Riley of Deakin University, Melbourne, and his research team: Dr. Ben Arnold, Dr. Mark Rahimi and Dr. Marcus Horwood.
The research surveyed primary and post-primary school leaders and was conducted on behalf of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) and the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN).
The longitudinal data shows disproportionate levels of stress amongst school leaders, with 29.5% reporting burnout, 28.2% reporting difficulty sleeping, 23.6% reporting higher than average stress levels, and 11.5% reporting depressive symptoms.
School leaders cited the sheer quantity of work they undertook, the lack of time spent on teaching and learning, and teacher shortages as the main sources of stress in the workplace.
Paul Crone, Director of the NAPD said, “School leaders have borne the brunt of an overbearing level of school administration for many years now. The level of stress and burnout in the profession will come as little surprise to those working in the education system. What is most concerning is the high levels of school leaders seeking medical attention due to stress. These stress levels have been particularly acute in light of the many challenges posed by the Pandemic.
“The NAPD calls on the Department of Education and the Minister for Education to recognise the great service school leaders offer their school communities and take these findings on board, so that we can collectively find a way to alleviate this immense stress and workload.
“The recruitment and retention of school leaders remains a key challenge in the post-primary school sector and today’s research is further evidence of why schools are struggling to attract and retain high calibre school leaders.
“We hope the Minister and her Department will continue to engage with us, so together we can find adequate policy responses and ensure our school communities do not collapse due to a lack of candidates. Education in Ireland is among the best internationally, and school leaders play a crucial role in the integrity of that system.”
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