The rising number of teachers making claims for mental problems spiked in 2019, which Independent Education Union boss Mark Northam said could be tracked back to a worsening teacher shortage.
“If you’re always covering for absent colleagues, that becomes enormously taxing on teachers, and they do suffer medical consequences of their experiences,” he said.
The Department of Education estimates 3 per cent of its 95,000-strong workforce is currently suffering from a workplace injury, with a quarter of those relating to a psychological issue.
Secondary Principals’ Council president Craig Petersen said a lack of staff meant teachers were increasingly overwhelmed, which was compounded by worsening behaviour and rising rates of violence and aggression in the classroom.
“What’s been reported to me right across the state when we came back from lockdowns, there was a decrease in the social skills of a lot of our students, there was an increase in non-compliant behaviours,” he said.
“Our year 7 students over the past two years have been really impacted by the disruption. Their social connections were broken, they came into high school, there was more social disruption.”
A Department of Education spokesman said a new Work Health and Safety strategy had been rolled out this year, which includes “specialist response” teams whose focus is to provide rapid and ongoing expert advice and support to school leaders managing complex matters.
“Our school staff have faced significant challenges in recent years, and have managed COVID and natural disasters with care and professionalism,” a spokesman said.
“The return to face-to-face teaching after these events has also presented challenges.
“We must address these issues, and that work begins with the new Work Health and Safety strategy that will ensure teachers have a safe workplace.”
A discipline policy rolled out in term 4 last year restricted the length and number of suspensions schools could issue, amid concerns that 40 per cent of suspensions – including about two-thirds of the hundreds of kindergarten suspensions each year – involve students with disabilities. Indigenous students were also more likely to be sent home from school.
Last month, Education Minister Prue Car reversed that policy, giving principals more power to be tough on misbehaviour in schools, extending the maximum length of suspensions and allowing principals to send students home for persistent bad behaviour.
School behaviour expert Dr Tim McDonald, who wrote a book called Classroom Management, said students needed to know what is expected and that there are clear consequences for inappropriate behaviour, which include suspensions.
He said if behaviour was taught with its own curriculum in Australian schools, some of the disadvantage gap in learning outcomes in schools could be shifted.
“Students who have the skill and ability to listen, take turns and follow the teacher’s instruction will learn more than those students who for whatever reason do not have the skill or ability,” he said.
“These students will fall further behind and continue to fall behind their peers. If we do this from kindy then the trajectories of student behaviour will improve and hopefully lessen the level of disruption in Australian classrooms.”
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https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/in-nsw-11-teachers-are-hit-by-moving-objects-every-week-the-injury-bill-has-tripled-20230831-p5e11h.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national_nsw In NSW, 11 teachers are hit by moving objects every week. The injury bill has tripled