Primary school teachers across the country are striking for the second time in 3 months. This is Historic.
I think it’s fair to say that Teachers, particularly Primary school teachers are generally a conservative lot when it comes to being union militants. It has taken a lot to get them agitated enough to focus on their own personal needs. That’s not because they don’t care about themselves. It’s just the nature of the profession and the personal responsibility they take on when they get in front of those children. But there is a limit for everyone and their patience and their professional dedication has been pushed to the limit.
Driving the teachers determined stand has been more than a decade of neglect in public education funding and a raft of ideologically driven changes under the previous National Government. There are now 40% less applicants to the profession and 40% of those are leaving before they complete registration. The Teacher shortage crisis is upon us and is negatively affecting all schools ability to deliver good teaching outcomes to our children. It has forced teachers to put down their chalk and close their chrome books. Many principals are leading publicly around this issue.
It’s great that the so called National Standards has now been binned along with the Charter School experiment. It’s great that the political appointments only to the NZ teachers council has been reversed, and rightly so. All steps in the right direction but all at minimal cost compared to what is needed to set NZ education back on track.
That track is clearly understood by the practitioners in this profession and it’s time politicians now allow the profession to guide the solutions we so desperately need.
What is not being addressed by this government and is being publicly ignored by Chris Hipkins, is the workload and class size issue teachers have been stressing since this campaign began. The word is out both here and overseas that NZ teachers are over worked, undervalued and underpaid so attempts by this government to fill over 600 expected teacher vacancies with foreign teachers will be a failed strategy. Even if partially successful it will create a raft of new difficulties as senior leadership teams have to grapple with integrating overseas trained teachers into our schools and familiarize them with our curriculum.
Smaller class sizes and more time provision for teachers to plan and prepare for the many and varied students they encounter will cost more money. Having 600 Specialist teachers in roles to assist with our increasing special needs children will help some students but still does not address more fundamental issues. It will require hundreds more teachers that we currently do not have but desperately need to restore this profession to a place where creative and intelligent people will again see teaching as a worthwhile and viable occupation. It is this issue that teachers feel strongest about when we talk about the future of education. It is this area that that teachers feel that the government needs to front up on and acknowledge they are willing to address urgently.
Our teachers have seen the incremental decline of NZ education to the stage where we are now at breaking point. This government needs to be bold and embrace the challenge of future proofing education in Aotearoa instead of stigmatizing teachers as being greedy and unreasonable. Teachers will discuss and vote on the recent offer over the next few weeks. The early indications are that they are both angry and upset at what they are seeing as a derisory offer to them at a time of crisis in education.
Teachers across the country appear to be hardening their resolve to win a more robust and holistic settlement from this government and are fully expecting negative criticism from the education minister. The public can expect more and escalating industrial action in the new year if this government is not prepared to make a more realistic offer to settle this bargaining round.
Teachers have helped to elect this government on their commitment to redress the social spending imbalance of the previous government. Parents of hundreds of thousands of children across Aotearoa are backing teachers who are fighting for better education outcomes for all Kiwi kids. Those parents are watching what this government does closely and will judge them harshly if the children of Aotearoa are not the big winners in this dispute.
This is contributed in an impendent capacity. These are my personal views and observations as a field officer for NZEI for over 12 years. I do not claim to represent the institute in the opinions I have expressed here.