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    Wellbeing in Post-Covid Schools: Primary School Leaders’ Reimagining of the Future.

    Burke, Jolanta and Dempsey, Majella (2021) Wellbeing in Post-Covid Schools: Primary School Leaders’ Reimagining of the Future. Project Report. Maynooth University, Maynooth.

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    It is time to focus on the future. Since March 2020, all the resources went into helping schools maintain teaching and learning during the worldwide emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic (UN, 2020). School Leaders in Ireland have moved swiftly along the stages of grief ranging from the shock of the pandemic, through to anger, despair and finally acceptance of the new reality of living and working in the midst of the coronavirus. The entire school community have shown a remarkable resilience in the way students, parents, teachers and leaders have come together and navigated through the maze of the Covid-education (J. Burke & Dempsey, 2020; Devitt, Bray, Banks, & Ni Chorcora, 2020; Fahy, Murphy, Fu, & Nguyen, 2020; Mohan et al., 2020; Quinn, McGilloway, & Burke, 2020). With the new vaccines, we are now hopefully reaching the end of the lockdowns. However, the havoc that the pandemic caused may be long-lasting. Pre-pandemic, primary school leaders’ role was already complex, “messy and demanding” (DES, 2016a; Stynes, McNamara, & O'Hara, 2018). They complained about the quantity of work, lack of time to focus on teaching and learning and resourcing needs (Reily, 2015). During the pandemic, their role has changed significantly. Apart from managing the day-to-day running of the school, leaders have also taken on additional duties associated with managing the Covid-19 safety, exacerbating the complexity of their role (Dempsey & Burke, 2020). It is now time to review leaders’ loaded role and identify ways in which it can be altered to positively impact on their wellbeing, ensure sustainability of the position, as well as ensure that they have the time and space to focus on rebuilding the ruptured school communities for a brighter post-Covid future. The impact Covid-19 had on the school community varied. Some children were at a disadvantage when their access to education was limited due to the Wi-Fi connection issues or access to computing devices (J. Burke & Dempsey, 2020; Dempsey & Burke, 2020; Doyle, 2020). Families complained about the negative impact the lockdown had on pupils who felt more isolated, anxious and began to experience maladaptive behaviours at home (O’Sullivan et al., 2021). This was particularly challenging for parents of children with special needs. A comprehensive analysis of young people’s mental health in Ireland found that indeed, many have experienced lower levels of wellbeing compared with students pre-pandemic, although some aspects of their wellbeing remained the same (Quinn et al., 2020). Similarly, many parents, teachers and leaders found it difficult to cope with Covid-19 adversity, which impacted on various aspects of school community’s wellbeing (Devitt et al., 2020; Fahy et al., 2020; L. E. Kim & Asbury, 2020). Wellbeing is “ a journey of promoting and improving individuals’ mental health and conditions, so that they can contribute to the school communities’ overall wellbeing, and vice versa.” (J. Burke, 2021). School leaders play an important role in promoting wellbeing and their leadership has a significant effect on their teaching staff, non-teaching staff and ultimately their students (Francisco, 2019; Serin & Akkaya, 2020; Wang, 2019). When individuals are not doing well, or when they withdraw psychologically from their role, it has a negative outcome on their performance (Erdemli, 2015). Thus, following the principles of “putting an oxygen mask first before assisting others”, it is crucial that primary school leaders’ wellbeing is considered to ensure the sustainability of their roles. Psychological wellbeing can be assessed using at least a hundred of possible measures (Linton, Dieppe, & Medina-Lara, 2016). In the current research, we reviewed it from four perspectives. Firstly, we examined leaders’ personal wellbeing using a Mental Health Continuum model (C.L.M. Keyes, 2009), which combines three main theories of wellbeing, i.e. psychological wellbeing (Ryff & Keyes, 1995), emotional/subjective wellbeing (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999) and social wellbeing (Corey Lee M. Keyes, 1998). Then, we selected a model of illbeing which assesses participants’ symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Thirdly, we reviewed their work-related wellbeing (Kern, 2014). Finally, we assessed their perceived stress levels and work-life balance during the first term of the school year 2020-2021. Therefore the current research offers a holistic view of Primary school leaders’ health. Wellbeing measures provided us with an outline of the impact of Covid-19 on leaders. However, what matters even more is what actions can all stakeholders take to create a better future for the entire school community with primary school leaders having the time and space to lead the change. This is what this report focused its attention on.

    Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
    Keywords: Wellbeing; leaders; post-primary schools; Ireland; NAPD report;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Education
    Item ID: 14412
    Depositing User: Jolanta Burke
    Date Deposited: 06 May 2021 09:23
    Publisher: Maynooth University
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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