New ACU course helps ECEC leaders, directors and decision makers with mental health
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > New ACU course helps ECEC leaders, directors and decision makers with mental health

New ACU course helps ECEC leaders, directors and decision makers with mental health

by Freya Lucas

January 25, 2022

A new course from the Australian Catholic University (ACU) has been created to “beat burnout at the source” as the education sector battles ever increasing rates of stress and burnout, leading to increasing numbers of dedicated professionals leaving the sector. 


The early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector is experiencing ongoing staffing challenges, and this is mirrored in the education sector as a whole, with nearly half of all currently serving teachers saying they have considered leaving the job due to stress.


A new course, the first of its kind in Australia, aims to address the crisis by offering teachers and teaching executives training in mental health targeted at managing the stresses associated with the profession.


ACU’s Graduate Certificate in Mental Health for Teachers and Educators will be available online from this year as a postgraduate qualification for qualified teachers, and has been developed by Dr Debra Phillips, who said the demands of delivering classes and meeting the needs of children and families during the pandemic had brought to a head the ongoing crisis in teacher mental health.


As well as school-based classroom teachers, Dr Phillips expects teaching executives, school counselors, youth justice professionals and early childhood educators to enrol.


 “They will learn to identify the workplace and socio-cultural factors that create unease and distress – to target the ones that individual teachers can control and let go of the ones they cannot control.


“This course is a timely, ethical response to the growing awareness around teacher stress and workload, exacerbated by the pandemic and its lockdowns,” she explained


“The pandemic kick-started us to research what was needed, to get something ready and put it out into the public domain.” 


Dr Phillips said teachers often came into the profession ‘fired up’ with the capacity of a good teacher to change students’ lives but lost their passion through exhaustion and demoralisation. One in five teachers leaves the profession within their first year, and this trend is expected to continue over the next five years.


“When the fire goes, the desire to do anything is no longer there because there is nothing left to give. You have lower staff morale, and that feeds into the (overall workplace) climate. Teachers no longer have the energy to be innovative or creative.” 


Dr Phillips noted that while many universities offer courses that enable teachers to identify and manage children’s mental health and wellbeing, there has been little available for educators themselves, with many unaware that their energy was draining away until they hit burnout which is a symptom of eroded mental health.


The new course will aim to provide educators with a foundational knowledge of the factors that surround, impact, and influence mental health and wellbeing over the many different stages of their teaching career.  


One aim of the course is to ask teachers to reflect on why they came into teaching in the first place – and often it’s related to this idea that teaching is a vocation with a spiritual dimension. 


“The units are structured to reignite that fire and to help teachers to locate it once again,” Dr Phillips said. 


“For many, the pandemic especially has eroded that desire, and the fire to teach has waned. We know that it can be rekindled.” 


For more information about the new course please see here. 

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