Monday 23 October 2017

Staff cuts hurting mental health aid to students

More than four-in-10 principals admit that official guidelines on student well-being are not being adequately implemented. (Stock image)
More than four-in-10 principals admit that official guidelines on student well-being are not being adequately implemented. (Stock image)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Second-level principals say ongoing staffing cuts in their schools are hitting mental health supports for students.

More than four-in-10 principals admit that official guidelines on student well-being are not being adequately implemented - and they blame austerity measures, including a ban on promotions.

Schools have lost an average of six middle management posts each since 2009 as result of the moratorium on filling of jobs such as year heads and class tutors, whose responsibilities include student attendance, student engagement and monitoring students at risk.

According to a survey commissioned by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), 82pc of principals said that the moratorium had undermined pastoral care structures, with 43pc stating that it interfered with implementation of the well-being guidelines.

The guidelines, which were published by the Department of Education in 2013, provide advice on addressing issues of mental health promotion and suicide prevention among second-level students.

ASTI president Máire Ní Chíarba said the well-being of young people was a major public health concern and supporting students required more than procedures and guidelines.

"It requires adequate 'human' resources at school level. The very resources which students need to support their well-being have been greatly diminished in schools," she said.

Ms Ní Chíarba said that as well as the moratorium, increased workload was reducing the amount of time teachers had for vital non-teaching work including supporting students with difficulties.

According to the survey, teacher workload has increased across a number of areas with, for example, 78pc of teachers saying they have more administrative duties to complete compared with last year.

The findings also highlight relatively low levels of job satisfaction among the 1,749 principals and teachers surveyed with 55pc saying they are "very" or "quite" satisfied with their job, down from 77pc in 2009, while 28pc of principals are considering early retirement,

On a brighter note, the survey found an increase in the proportion of second-level teachers in permanent, full-time jobs - up to 75pc, compared with 70pc in 2014, although still below the international average of 85pc. This follows changes on foot of an expert group report on fixed-term and part-time employment in teaching.

Irish Independent

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