Monday, July 26, 2010

Job stress and satisfaction amongst Irish primary school principals

A recent article in the Irish Independent pointed to difficulties that primary schools in Ireland were having in attracting applicants for vacancies "Longer working hours, increased bureaucracy and poor rewards are thought to be the main causes of the poor take-up of jobs" it concluded. If so this is a serious problem. Interestingly, the Sunday Business Post recently carried an article suggesting that Irish public sector workers, including primary teachers, were comparatively well paid.
So what evidence do we have ? Growing Up in Ireland actually has some very good data on this and related issues. The principals in which the 9 year olds were pupils were asked about their stress levels. This is not a random sample of principals note: in schools where there are more than one study child then that principal will be counted more than once. But since these will tend to be in bigger schools this makes sense. So it should be reasonably representative of the population I think.
So what did they say? The graph below gives the responses and indicates fairly high stress levels. Almost 68% were "very" or "fairly" stressed.

The principals were also asked about job satisfaction. The results there suggest a different picture.Over 95% are "very" or "fairly" satisfied by their job. So based on this criterion, it would seem that our principals are not doing too badly and it is harder to understand why there might be recruitment difficulties. It may well be the case that it is particular types of school that are experiencing problems retaining or recruiting principals. It would be an interesting task to use this rich data source to explore what are the predictors of principals' (& teachers') job stress and satisfaction.


Martin Ryan said...

Interesting post Kevin. It would be interesting to see how teachers compare to principals. One could reasonably conjecture that they would have higher levels of stress, and lower levels of job satisfaction. But, that's just conjecture.

It would also be interesting to see what difference students' year of study makes. That is, what is the importance of teaching junior infants, sixth class, or anything in between? I wonder if teachers are actively rotated between these classes, during the course of their career?

Enda Hargaden said...


Mammy Hargaden started teaching c. 1964 and her daughter continues to teach. They have never been actively rotated but rather the principal asks for preferences for next year's roster. Teachers tend to have a preference for variety, so it's rare that someone teaches one year continually.

Kevin Denny said...

Martin: I feel obliged to test your conjecture - at some point. Since most of the kids are the same age there won't be much variation in class. But you know lots of other stuff about the teachers, principals & schools.

Enda: when I was a kid at school the teacher tended to stick with the class, so if he got them in 1st class he kept them for a few years. I assumed this was common: do you know is this the case?

Martin Ryan said...

Kevin, regarding your question to Enda:

In my case I had the same teacher for three years of pre-primary, but a different teacher for each of the five years in primary.

Enda Hargaden said...

Had a chat with (Ibid). The process you describe Kevin was reasonably common in the first half of the twentieth century (particularly in smaller schools) but started to decline in the latter half and it is now rare. It's generally seen as unfair on the kids if they get stuck with a crap teacher.

The process was typically in the hands of the principal but more recently defined by Boards of Management policy.

Kevin Denny said...

Martin:that they kept changing your teacher every that not saying something? ;)
Enda: I was definitely in the 2nd half of the century while in primary school though not the last quarter. Its an interesting change in practice.