Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey: NZEI Te Riu Roa | ACU

Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey

Principals need time to lead their schools, and in some cases are teaching as well‚ but the massive workload and pressure is taking its toll on their lives. It's unhealthy, it's unsustainable, and it's a serious risk.

We've commissioned the Australian Catholic University to look into principals' health and wellbeing. The study has been running since 2016, and aims to shed some light on exactly how principals' work is affecting their lives.

Focus on discrimination

A significant number of Māori and Pasifika participants in the survey have experienced discrimination at work on the basis of their ethnicity.

😖 Workplace tensions

27% of Māori and Pasifika respondents said that their ethnicity had been a source of relationship tension during the past 12 months

25.8% reported discrimination at work on the basis of their ethnicity.

This compares with 8.5-8.9% of non-Māori leaders experiencing tension or discrimination due to their ethnicity.

🗯 What happens

The type of discrimination which participants most often experienced was “comments made referring to Māori that cause offence”.

Unofficial or informal public statements (including gossip) was the next most likely type of discrimination experienced, and many also experienced discriminatory comments made directly to them.

Less frequently experienced as discriminatory were “official/formal public statements” and “action (eg denying access to resources, or support)”.

❔Who's doing this

Some of those most often responsible for causing offence by discrimination (perpetrators) were:

  • other employees or principals of the same school/kura
  • employees of other schools/kura in leadership or management positions
  • business contractors
  • representatives of community organisations
  • members of the school community eg parents, whānau
  • members of the wider community
  • government agencies

Focus on burnout

Data shows that school leaders are reporting higher levels of stress, depressive symptoms, sleep problems, and overall burnout than the general population.

🛑 Burnout

Leaders experienced burnout at 1.7 times the rate of the general population in both years. Rural leaders are disproportionately affected.

😬 Stress

School leaders reported symptoms of stress at 1.8 times the general population rate in both years.

🌜 Sleep

Sleeping troubles are reported at 2.4 times the general population rate for both years.

Chronic sleep deprivation predicts long-term health issues, including memory difficulties, obesity and depression.

⛈ Depressive symptoms

School leaders experienced depressive symptoms at 1.8 times the rate of the general population in 2016, but this figure fell to 1.4 times in 2017.

⏳ Workload and time

The greatest source of stress for all principals and deputy and assistant principals is the sheer quantity of work, closely followed by a lack of time to focus on teaching and learning.

During school terms, the average hours worked each week by school leaders in 2017 rose to 53-58 hours per week, up from 51-55 in 2016.

During term break periods, school leaders’ average hours at work remained constant at 25-30 hours per week.

🏠 Work/family conflict

Work-family conflict is far too high, at 2.13 times the rate of the general population for both years.

More about the survey

The Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey monitors the health, safety, and wellbeing of New Zealand's primary school principals. It provides hard, long-term evidence about how principals' work affects their lives both in and out of schools. We've commissioned the Australian Catholic University to conduct this research, which has been going on with Irish and Australian principals for some time. It's the first study of its kind to be done in New Zealand.


Principal Health and Wellbeing

Institute for Positive Psychology & Education: Australian Catholic University