Last year at this time I mentioned how tired staff and students were and the need for the break. This year I really want to pay tribute to our staff who have been consistently going above and beyond to keep things running at school as normally as possible.
There has been a great, extra burden that has been placed on staff since about mid-term 1 when Omicron really started to take hold in New Zealand. When staff are sick, pressure goes onto other staff to prepare lessons for other classes, or actually take those lessons. Although there are relief teachers available for schools, these relief teachers work in a number of schools and there is no coordinated pooling of this resource, so schools have to get in as early as they can to get help to cover absences.
From approximately halfway through term 1, in most weeks we haven’t been able to employ enough relievers to meet our needs, hence the rostering home system that we have had in place since then.
I attended a meeting of Principals online last Thursday 30 June and in discussions about this very matter, one Principal said that they have only two relievers to cover 50 teaching staff. We have just over 100 teaching staff and 12 external/regular relief staff. A number of these staff can only work some days but on a good day we can count on eight relief staff being able to work. Despite this ‘healthy’ situation, we are still unable to cover all the classes in the timetable and staff are being asked to do, on average, eight covers per day – approx 40 covers a week. On one day there were 32 internal staff covers required.
The rostering has obviously helped with this but it still hasn’t always met our needs and staff have taken extra classes, and worked above the number of hours in their collective agreement.
I am worried about this and the school may need to think of other solutions because the effect on teacher workload compounds the problem in the end. The most likely scenario is that we will roster home more than one year level in a week – perhaps alternately year 11 and year 12, then year 12 and year 13, then year 13 and year 11, etc. We may even have to roster home all three senior years. Our aim from the start has been to keep things as normal as possible and we have managed that for our students in years 9 and 10 but it is coming at a cost to teacher wellbeing as I have said above.
It feels like the wrong time to mention that I have been granted a sabbatical and I will be away for all of next term. You won’t be surprised to know then that my sabbatical is looking at teacher wellbeing and I will be travelling. I feel extremely lucky that I can take a break from all of this but this is not the case with the rest of the staff and the school may have to adjust its operations next term.
Shaun Tavernor, one of our Deputy Principals, will be the Acting Principal in my absence.
I hope you get to spend some quality time with your young person over the upcoming school holidays and I hope you are able to keep your family healthy during this period. I look forward to seeing everyone again in term 4!