Written by Crimson Dunstan
Edited for online by Lochy McIvor
The Queensland Teachers’ Union says increased workloads and class sizes are putting huge stress on teachers.
They are being faced with a complex national curriculum and crowded class sizes and with limited funding, a huge increase has been reported of teachers cracking under pressure of classroom life.
Queensland Teachers’ Union vice president Sam Pidgeon says the workload is putting huge pressure on educators with those in the sector saying it has not been this intense in 30 years.
“There’s no doubt that the work of teachers has become more complex in recent years,” she said.
“We’re seeing teachers dealing with not only a more complex student grouping within their classes but also the demands of implementing the national curriculum.
“There is a relentless focus on things like NAPLAN data.”
She says it will not be the students who are affected by the teachers’ stress, instead schools are likely to face the impact.
“I don’t think that there’s any suggestion here that there is negative impacts on students as a result of teachers experiencing stress,” she said.
“I think the negative impacts are for the whole all of the school and classroom when we see class sizes that are too big and teachers and schools that aren’t resourced to do the work they should be doing.”
She says the union is concerned for the inexperienced teachers who are trying their best to manage.
“What we obviously have particular concerns for are early career teachers who are rapidly trying to get their head around the full task of being a teacher,” she said.
“Teachers are being asked to do things that are beyond what would be the traditional role of being a teacher will raise anyone’s stress levels no matter how great a teacher they are or how experienced they are.”
She says the union is calling for increased funding in schools and a lack of resources is the core source of the problem.
“If proper funding is given to target students’ needs we’ll actually see teachers getting the support they need to do their job,” she said.
Educational expert and author Anne Vize says stress may be brought on by the high expectations we have of teachers.
“We expect an awful lot of teachers and we expect them to be able to deal with a lot of different situations that they may not have encountered previously”, she said.
She says high stress levels can negatively affect how teachers engage with students.
“Teachers often will start to lose a little bit of the empathy that they often had early on when they first began as teachers,” she said.
“They can also experience a whole range of physical health problems.”
She says we need to take action to make sure our teachers are supported.
“We spend an awful lot of money and time training teachers and putting them through tertiary courses they become then very valuable and important human resource in our school settings,” she said.
“We need to be training them and supporting them in ways that mean that stress and burn out don’t have a detrimental affect.”