A Mixed Methods Exploration of Factors Impacting the Psychosocial Well-Being of Irish Primary Principals

McHugh, Rita (2021) A Mixed Methods Exploration of Factors Impacting the Psychosocial Well-Being of Irish Primary Principals. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

A Mixed Methods Exploration of Factors Impacting the Psychosocial Well-Being of Irish Primary Principals
PhD Thesis
McHugh - Rita - Education - May - 2021.pdf - Whole Document

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


This study explored the organisational factors within the Irish primary education system which conflate to support or thwart the psychosocial well-being of primary principals (n = 488). In Ireland, 90% of primary schools, while state funded, are under the patronage of the Catholic Church and are managed by untrained, voluntary Catholic Boards of Management to whom Irish primary principals, themselves devoid of any formal leadership training, are accountable in all their professional decision-making. The impact of this globally unique Church-State school model on principals’ psychosocial well-being and their professional capacity to effectively lead teaching and learning is explored in this study. With principal well-being considered imperative to principal performance a conceptual framework of occupational well-being (CFOW-B) was developed to measure identified indicators of occupational well-being. The resulting survey consisted of pre-validated scales which were adjusted for an Irish context and extended to incorporate the collection of qualitative data. Subsequent interviews with 20 Irish primary principals provided a supplementary qualitative aspect to the study. This research represents the first Irish-based application of Self-Determination Theory
and the first known application of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory in an Irish educational context. Within the framework of relevant EU and Irish occupational health and safety legislation the application of the CFOW-B facilitated a holistic assessment of the psychosocial health of Irish primary principals which revealed
that this cohort exhibit the highest global mean levels of burnout in any identified published studies. Their levels of depression and anxiety rank above both EU and national averages. High levels of autonomy frustration were also detected along with lower than average dispositional mindfulness which is considered a protective factor against occupational stressors. Evidence of significant negative impact on psychosocial well-being is uncovered in this cross-sectional study of Irish primary principals. Findings highlight the shortcomings of both EU and national
occupational health legislation along with the shortcomings of primary school Boards of Management in the protection of their employees’ psychosocial wellbeing. Findings also suggest that immediate intervention is required to tackle the
alarming levels of work-related burnout being experienced by Irish primary principals. Formal training for prospective principals is advised along with several autonomy-enhancing measures. It is recommended that the various education
stakeholders now adopt a collaborative approach to addressing principals’ workplace stressors which are identified in this research. It is envisaged that the CFOW-B is applicable beyond the education sector and therefore represents a
useful tool in establishing the psychosocial well-being of other white-collar professionals.

Keywords:occupational well-being, psychosocial, primary principals, burnout, school management, Self-Determination Theory, Psychosocial well-being, Copenhagen Burnout Inventory, Mindfulness, Motivation, Organisational justice, Job Satisfaction, Leadership & management, School patronage
Subjects:X Education > X320 Academic studies in Primary Education
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
ID Code:48421
Deposited On:02 Mar 2022 09:49

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