Primary school principals in Ireland admit they are on medication because of stress
Recent surveys made by An Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN) revealed that up to half of primary principals in Ireland has some work-related health issues and admits they are on medication. According to the IPPN director, Sean Cottrell, most principals' health problems are caused by the growing workload that has been put on them. Growing workload, triggered mostly by overall cutbacks, prevents the principals from keeping up with their working routine and often also disrupts fulfilling their duties efficiently enough, most of all affecting the quality of education in general, but also affecting their health. 'Some of the most obvious effects of excessive workload include stress, leading to ill health, feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression and low job satisfaction.' says Cottrell.
During the survey, IPPN asked 900 principals questions about their general satisfaction with work and about any health problems they had. Half of them reported being on medication for various conditions such as sleep loss, anxiety, blood pressure or even depression. These are very concerning statistics and Cottrell speaks about his worries, that not every principal wants to admit having any problems, so the reality might be even more alarming.
The situation looked much better just a couple of years ago. In 2010 primary school principals in Ireland reported to be highly satisfied with their jobs. Also, the salaries offered to them were one of the most attractive compared to the primary school principals in other countries of the EU. However, education system in Ireland also suffered from economic woes that affected all sectors of society in the last years. This is another reason why workplace conditions in schools changed for worse causing more reasons for the principals to be worried.
Mr Cottrell thinks that the Government should take action as soon as possible. He suggested that one of the solutions to reduce the workload is hiring skilled administrators that would take over some of the duties, those not connected to the educational matters. This way principals would be able to focus on the pupils' issues and on the quality of teaching and learning.
According to Mr Cottrell no matter the workplace, if workload affects the mental and physical health of the employees in any way, the employer is obligated to act immediately. In this case the board of management plays the role of the employer, so they have a legal responsibility to do something about the problem.