Teaching terror: ‘Mum’s job killed her’
TRISH Antulov worked long hours, sometimes 12 or 14-hour days.
She was new to the role but it was also necessary if she wanted to keep up.
The school principal at Laverton in country Western Australia was at her desk on Sunday, February 11 this year when her husband John tried desperately to reach her.
About 10pm, after she failed to answer numerous calls, he found his partner of 35 years sprawled across her desk having died of a heart attack.
That image struck a chord with teachers around the world and Trish became the face of the overworked, stressed victim of an industry that is working its most valuable assets to death. Literally.
In an interview as part of Sunday night's 60 Minutes investigation into the state of Australia's broken education system, Trish's son tells reporter Tom Steinfort he knows what killed her.
"Put simply, did the stress of teaching kill your mum?" Steinfort asks.
"Yes," her son John replies.
John told the Channel 9 program that he was a military man who served in Iraq and he's convinced his mum's role was harder than that.
Trish's story is one of many similar stories. Steinfort told news.com.au a number of teachers he spoke to are fed up with "banging their heads against a wall".
He said they told him they entered teaching to make a difference, and now they're measured by NAPLAN results rather than the myriad other measurable outcomes.
"The main thing that jumped out to us before we did this story is just how awful Australia is doing compared to other countries," Steinfort said.
"Research we found from the UN shows we're ranked 39th out of 41 countries. We knew we were going backwards but we didn't know how dire the situation was.
"Teachers feel like they're getting pulled in all these different directions. They're stressed out, working too much."
One gripe in particular is NAPLAN - Australia's national assessment plan that tests students on literacy and numeracy and grades them against the national average.
Steinfort said teachers are so stressed out by the new method of teaching that more and more are seeking professional help.
"A lot of them are gutted," he told news.com.au.
"We talked to a psychologist who is treating a lot more teachers these days. Fifty per cent of teachers quit within the first five years. That's people who have gone to the trouble of getting an education and all of a sudden they realise they're banging their heads against a wall."
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham tells the program Australian schools are working at an A-minus level and the situation is not as dire as it seems.
He concedes there are issues and there are plenty of things that need fine-tuning, but he's not willing to change the curriculum and he won't be ditching NAPLAN.
Blaise Joseph from The Centre for Independent Studies is with him on that. She authored a report in May that found NAPLAN tests are valuable and working.
The education policy analyst wrote that "NAPLAN provides valuable data to show which students are falling behind" and "it identifies problems in the school system which we can improve".
Her report concluded that data suggesting NAPLAN was harmful to students was "anecdotal" and survey sizes were too small to draw any valuable inferences.
Trish's husband maintains that his wife was under "terrible pressure" and did not have time to look after herself.
"Principals across the world are experiencing similar issues of workload and stress," he said.
- 60 Minutes airs on Sunday at 8.30pm on Channel 9. Visit the Facebook page for more information.