‘Constant’ pressure leads to resignation

Saying goodbye ... Balfour Primary School principal Louise Stevenson is surrounded by pupils in one of her last days in the job. She has quit being a school leader due to mental and physical stress. PHOTO: HELEN MCFELIN

From pest removal to boiler maintenance, the roles of a rural school principal are varied.

Most recently the job of checking torque on school bus tyres was raised as an additional task for Balfour Primary School principal Louise Stevenson.

‘‘I had to go home and ask my husband — I think it’s tyre pressure.’’

Some rural principals were under pressure, and had to take on tasks such as cleaning their schools and driving buses.

‘‘The pressure is constant and working 7.30am to7pm weekdays and weekends . . .was just too much.’’

She quit her job because the pressure was taking a toll on her mental and physical health.

‘‘I thing the average time for rural school principal burnout is seven years. I made it to eight.

‘‘The longer you stay the more emotionally invested you become and the pressure becomes greater.

‘‘You are responsible for not only staff and students’ wellbeing, but for weeds in the concrete and fire extinguishers.’’

New Zealand Rural Schools Leadership Association vice-president and New Zealand Principal Council representative Jane Corcoran said she was not surprised principals quit.

‘‘They think being a principal is a promotion . . .however the reality was something else.

‘‘It’s like being on [the television show] Survivor. There are so many systematic issues which need addressed.’’

Ministry of Education workforce leader Anna Welanyk said operational funding of rural schools, such as cleaning and administration, was given to a school board and they decided how it was spent.

Principals’ pay at schools with rolls of 51 students or less was on average $113,000, she said.

Those at the coal face said funding was not fixing the problems faced by rural principals.

Mrs Stevenson will finish her job on Thursday and take up a new role two days later as a resource teacher of learning and behaviour.

‘‘Balfour has not been able to find someone to take my place so I have extended leaving for as long as possible.’’