4.3 Navigating together as NZEI Te Riu Roa

4.3.1 Principals’ wellbeing

In January, we saw the release of a principals and senior leaders’ health and wellbeing survey.

The independent, in-depth survey of primary school principals and deputies uncovered high levels of stress, burnout, excessive workloads and a lack of professional support from the Ministry of Education and school boards.

NZEI Te Riu Roa commissioned the study by the Australian Catholic University because of anecdotal reports in the sector that increased workload was putting principals and other school leaders under stress and the risk of burnout had increased.

The extensive online survey was completed late last year by 398 primary principals (20% of the total) and 145 deputy and assistant principals.

Key findings included:

  • 72% of school leaders work more than 51 hours per week during term, with 25% working more than 61 hours a week.
  • The greatest reported cause of stress is the sheer quantity of work, closely followed by a lack of time to focus on teaching and learning.
  • The third-highest reported cause of stress is “government initiatives”.
  • Burnout was 1.7 times the general population and school leaders scored less than the general population on all positive measures of health and wellbeing and higher on all negative measures.

The survey will continue with the original group involved and with new principals and senior school leaders joining the survey. The next step is to look at measures to alleviate the negative impacts found in the study.

“The participants in the survey have very demanding jobs. They spend very long hours at work, both during term time and during term breaks. The number of hours worked appears to have no relation to salary. They appear dedicated to the task of running schools as effectively as possible for its own intrinsic reward.”

New Zealand Primary School Principals’ Occupational Health and Wellbeing Survey, 2016

4.3.2 Support staff

In September 2016, school support staff reacted with anger to the Ministry of Education’s decision to not pay more than 6000 annualised support staff for a fortnight at the end of the annual payment cycle.

The Employment Court upheld the earlier ruling of the Employment Relations Authority that the Ministry could not unilaterally reduce the pay of 6,000 annualised school support staff by 3.7% for all of 2016 because of a payroll anomaly that sees an extra fortnight in the payroll every 11 years.

In an appeal by the Ministry, the court ruled in favour of the ministry. NZEI Te Riu Roa continued to advise and advocate for support staff after this ruling which did not reflect the spirit of the collective agreement.

4.3.3 NZEI communications

NZEI Te Riu Roa increased its presence over the year in the media, and on social media, promoting the better funding for better learning message off the back of the nationwide paid union meetings, which eventually saw the defeat of the Government’s Bulk Funding plans.

Regional media coverage of both the PUMs and the Heartland Tour was extensive, with local newspapers running multiple stories covering the funding crisis most weeks from September 2016 through to June 2017.

The communications team has undergone multiple reviews during this time, with the appointment of a new strategic manager in April. The team had begun a minor reorganization as of the beginning of June.

Online, NZEI’s Facebook page followers have grown from about 1600 to 3000 over the year to 30 June, and the number of Twitter followers for both accounts, NZEI Campaigns and NZEI Media, has grown steadily. Enhancing NZEI’s digital campaigning capabilities continues to be a large focus of the team’s work.

4.3.4 Build/grow: Membership recruitment and organising 2016-17

In addition to achieving their objective of defeating bulk funding, the highly successful joint NZEI Te Riu Roa/PPTA paid union meetings held in September 2016 resulted in a significant membership increase, particularly in primary teacher membership.

Membership numbers grew by 1114 over the period immediately before through to immediately following those meetings. The PPTA reported good levels of growth in their membership across the same period.

Recruitment has focussed on encouraging beginning teachers, in primary and ECE, and support staff to join the union. Worksites identified as having low levels of membership have been specifically targeted, with each NZEI Te Riu Roa field staff member identifying ten priority sites each on which to focus. This did lead to healthy levels of membership growth in those schools and centres.

While primary teacher membership has grown over the past twelve months, that has been offset by a continuing gradual decline in the numbers of support staff, student, Special Education (Learning Support) and ECE teacher membership outside the kindergarten sector.

We are continuing to explore ways to encourage members in these sectors to join our campaigns, especially those around pay equity, ECE and support staff funding and Inclusive Education, by joining the union.

Jason Ataera, Libby Morris, and Shane Lavery from Raroa Normal Intermediate