Wendy Bamford, principal of Wanaka Primary announced, “It is with frustration and disappointment that I inform you of the teacher's strike date of Wednesday 29th May. Our school will be closed on this day. Our teachers, as are others throughout the country, are not wanting this disruption to our programmes and the loss of another day's pay. We do not want the inconvenience and pressure that this can cause you as a family, but this is the only thing that we as a profession can do to be heard by the Government.”
The grievance between the teaching profession and the government has been festering for years and now the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, is facing ‘the largest strike action in memory’; all primary and secondary teachers across the country will strike in unity. Ange Scoullar Acting Principal of Holy Family School quoted a message from a Northland teacher who articulated teachers’ frustrations very clearly:
“The minister just announced $95 million to attract new teachers. This is such a common marketing strategy. Offer a deal to get people to sign up—but don’t look after your existing customers! This $95 million to train new teachers does not stop the flood of teachers quitting. It does not solve the massive percentage of teachers who resign within the first five years. It does nothing to value our experienced, hard-working teachers. It also does nothing to attract our top students to teaching—we want the best and brightest school leavers to be considering teaching!”
“The minister likes to talk about this being a $10,000 payrise. Currently our beginning teachers spend a minimum of three years at university and then start on a paltry $47980. This offer gives them three percent straight away. So about $1400 before tax, or about $19 a week. This is one of the reasons we have a 40 percent reduction in people choosing teaching as a career.”
But the rift isn’t just about money. The support for learners with special needs—both learning and behaviour—is nothing short of “pathetic”. Limited release for primary teachers means they have no extra time to plan for these learners—or attend meetings, or support whanau.
“A decade ago, we used to get 100 applicants for a teaching job. Principals could choose the best candidates to meet the needs of their school. Now we see vacancies having no applicants at all. We have classes being split because we can’t find a reliever. We see jobs being readvertised over and over again.
“We have already battled this for a year. It has cost teachers thousands and we seem to have made little headway. We know it’s frustrating for parents and we hear the messages from the Minister that try to turn the public against us.
“Please believe me that we are fighting for the education for your children. We have come too far to give up now.”