Austerity measures hit student mental health supports in schools

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Austerity measures including a moratorium on school middle-management posts are undermining student pastoral care structures and mental health supports, a study has found. 

In a survey of 1,749 teachers and school principals commissioned by the ASTI, 82 per cent of principals state that the moratorium on middle-management posts has undermined pastoral care structures. More than 40 per cent of principals report that Department of Education guidelines on student mental health are not adequately implemented in their schools. 

Schools have lost an average of six middle-management posts (known as posts of responsibility) since 2009. These posts are focused on student pastoral care structures and include Year Heads and Class Tutors whose responsibilities typically incorporate student attendance, student engagement and monitoring students at risk.

The research, conducted by Millward Brown in February 2016, also found teacher workload has increased across a number of areas. For example, 78 per cent of teachers say they have more administrative duties to complete compared to last year. Teachers cite the amount of administrative work and after school meetings as the key sources of job dissatisfaction. 

Being able to help young people is a key driver of job satisfaction amongst second-level teachers. Almost 90 per cent identify it as a key source of job satisfaction, while 49 per cent say it is the one main source of job satisfaction. However, job satisfaction levels are relatively low. Fifty-five per cent of those surveyed say they are “very” or “quite” satisfied with their job, compared to 77 per cent in 2009. 

Commenting on the survey findings, ASTI President Máire G. Ní Chiarba said: “The research is unequivocal. Pastoral care structures have been substantially undermined by the moratorium. In addition, increased workload is reducing the amount of time teachers have for vital non-teaching work including supporting students with difficulties.”

“The wellbeing of young people is a major public health concern which is widely reported in the media. However, it is not a priority when it comes to education policy. Supporting students’ wellbeing and mental health requires more than procedures and guidelines, it requires adequate ‘human’ resources at school level. The very resources which students need to support their wellbeing have been greatly diminished in schools”. 

 

Click here to read the full survey.