Teachers on STRIKE Friday 16 November

Ridgway School will be open for limited supervision only on Friday 16 November as this is the day that Wellington members of NZEI will be striking. While there will be limited supervision available at school for those children whose parents cannot make alternative arrangements, we ask that you do not send your children to school on this day if at all possible.

Teachers are striking because the government has not been forthcoming in improving the offer made in the latest round of bargaining. The salary and workload concerns of teachers have not been adequately addressed by the latest offer from the government. It is difficult to outline the concerns we have with the offer in a short paragraph or brief soundbite, so this post is quite long in order to delve a little bit deeper into what makes the current* offer to teachers inadequate.

The NZEI (teachers and principals' union) has sought

  1. Improved salary
    1. 16% increase in pay over 2 years
    2. renewal of pay parity with secondary teachers
  2. More teachers, more release for teachers, and more specialists to meet student needs.
    1. provide a SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) to all schools so that children with behaviour or learning needs can be better provided for in their school.
    2. more resource teachers (RTLBs and RTLits) - these are the specialists who work with teachers to guide them in catering for children who have learning and behaviour difficulties.
    3. reducing class sizes in Years 4-8. Currently schools are funded to provide 1 teacher for every 29 students. This ratio means that class sizes in Years 4-8 are the largest at any point in our education system. It reduces when children reach high school in Year 9.
    4. increasing the funding given to schools so that principals and deputy principals don't need to spend as much time teaching and can focus on leadership of the school.
    5. double the release time for teachers so that they have more time to carry out the planning, assessment and reporting that they are required to do - these are things that can't be done while teaching
  3. improve opportunities for career development and recognise specialist skills
  1. remove the qualifications based caps on teacher salary
  2. allow shared leadership of kahui ako/community of learning
  3. provide better career pathways for teachers
  4. recognise the specialist skills needed in special education, Māori and Pasifika immersion settings and in teaching te reo and tikanga across all schools

While paying teachers better will go someway to overcoming the teacher shortage that we are now facing, the teacher's claim is not just about their own pay. It's about having the time to do the job properly and getting the specialist support that is required to meet the needs of our children. The improvements to teacher's pay and resourcing for students sought by the NZEI would help to make teaching an attractive career option for young New Zealanders. It would also help to keep teachers in the profession. Years of under-funding schools and undervaluing teachers has seen a 40% drop in the number of people training to become teachers. Large numbers of teachers are leaving and going on to other jobs that can offer better pay and conditions.

Let's take a closer look at what is on offer for teachers' pay packets...

It is my view that media reporting of the pay offer made to teachers is misleading. Linda Stuart made the point that very few teachers would receive significant increases in pay from the latest offer as stated by Minister Tracey Martin
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said on Newshub Nation that some teachers will get a $20,000 per year increase in their pay, while the average increase is between $9,000 and $11,000. But the union says that's misleading, claiming it would take years for anyone's pay to go up by that much and saying only a select few would end up with the bigger increases. The $20,000 increase is to right a wrong for some of our most experienced teachers - those who have a diploma instead of degree, because that's all you needed when they trained years ago. "They're our teachers who often mentor other teachers, so it's really important that we're able to remunerate them at a level that they really should be getting," says Ms Stuart. These teachers are currently stuck on a $64,000 salary and if this offer is accepted they'll move to around $65,846. In a years' time, they'll be on $68,000 - then all things going well, they can earn up to $83,000 by the end of 2022. That would be a salary increase of $19,000.

It may be worth noting that all teachers at Ridgway School have a degree, and a number have Masters degrees. The number of teachers who will be looking forward to a significant salary increase is very low.

Teachers have been offered a 3% pay increase immediately, another 3% in a years time and a final 3% in two years time

  • a teacher in their first year of teaching, who has spent 4 years at university - will receive an increase of less than $20 per week from this offer straight away. That would be an increase of well less than $2,000 in their gross annual pay. Keep in mind that some teachers may earn less than this in their first year of teaching depending on the type of degree and teacher training that they did.
  • Under the government's current offer, a first year teacher would start on $49,419 (gross) per year and progress up the salary scale to earn $56,284 (gross) in their third year of teaching. This is an increase of just over $8,000 over 3 years.
    • Under the current salary scale this same teacher would have increased their income by just $3,528 as they progressed up the salary scale, this increase in pay from the government's latest offer to teachers starting out in the profession is one positive thing.
  • a teacher with a degree who has been teaching for over 10 years will receive $29 (in the hand) a week extra from this offer. In 2020 their gross annual pay will have increased by $6,666 to $78,557
Without considerable changes the level of funding that schools receive, it is very unlikely that a pay increase of less than $7,000 (gross) per year will be enough to retain experienced teachers in the profession.

Let's take a closer look at what's on offer to schools (and students)...

This part of the claim is seeking more funding for schools to employ the number of staff they actually need to do the job. This is to address the workload issues facing teachers. The government has offered to extend the tutor teacher allowance to make it available for supporting beginning teachers who choose to work less than 4 days a week. This clearly is not going to impact a large number of teachers.

The government announced (independent of negotiations) that 600 "learning support" staff would be appointed to schools from 2020, and then more in the future. We have no idea what the 600 learning support staff will actually do, or how they will reduce the workload of teachers. There are over 2500 schools in New Zealand, so the initial 600 clearly won't be able to adequately meet the current need. Ridgway School, just like every school in New Zealand, needs more staff to do the work now, not a vague promise for the future.
The Secretary of Education's comment, "We understand that your members will be interested in how they will be involved in content and nature of learning support roles and as we discussed we are open to clarifying this with you," is not at all helpful.

It's worth keeping in mind that secondary school teachers currently receive 10 release days a term to prepare lessons, work with parents, mark assessments and participate in professional learning. Primary school teachers receive 2 days a term. In the first offer, primary teachers were offered a very small increase of 12 minutes extra release, but even this tiny amount has been removed from the latest offer.

Work load is a a key issue for teachers and overworked teachers cannot provide the best education and support for children with complex needs. I am fearful of what it will mean for the future of primary education if the current workload issues are not seriously addressed.

Let's take a look at what career development opportunities are on offer...

The latest offer would allow teachers to take up leadership roles in Kahui Ako / CoLs (Community of Learning). Currently only principals can apply for these roles. While Ridgway School in part of a Kahui Ako, many schools are not. This change to the Primary teacher's Collective Agreement (PTCA) would do little to support the development on leadership expertise, and would only impact a very small number of teachers.

The following comment has also been included in the offer, but I really have no idea what it actually means, and little faith for any real outcome that would encourage and support teachers to grow their education careers beyond what they currently are in the term of the proposed agreement.
  • 'Update the PPCA/PTCA Career Framework Development Terms of Reference to reflect the interdependency with the development of the Education Workforce Strategy and milestones for continued work during the term of a renewed agreement'
* the latest offer, made at the end of last week, added a new top pay step for teachers with degrees and a teaching qualification but we don't yet have detail about what that step would be.

Minister Hipkins, We Are Disappointed Too

Chris Hipkins may well be 'disappointed' that the strike is going ahead - so am I. I'm also disappointed at how the government is misleading parents about the actual offer they've made to teachers, and minimising the issues that are facing education (e.g. teacher shortage, retention of teachers, number of high needs students currently not receiving the support they should have, and more).

Teachers have also been admonished for holding out for more when other sectors have settled. Parents reading such comparisons should try to consider the information that has not been included, and bear in mind that a simple salary comparison will not tell the full story.

Comments like "the police accepted the same offer of 3%" are also very disappointing. While we are not trying to compare roles - the police are paid while they train - our teachers often start their career with massive student loans from 4 years of full time university study. The starting wage for a police officer is currently over $56,000 - plus allowances, and overtime. The current starting salary for a teacher is $47,980 with no overtime rates, or standard allowances. While I absolutely value and appreciate our police force - and they earn every penny - it is not fair to suggest that because police accepted 3% - so should teachers. (- D. Crate)

That comment was from another principal's blog post, she hasn't mentioned that the police have their uniform supplied as well.

Please support teachers, and support learners

Just in case there are any parents who believe that teacher's work hours are 9am - 3pm - I promise you they absolutely are not. A real issue for teachers is how to get everything done within a 40 hour work week - it is seldom achieved by most. Neither do teachers actually have holidays when children do - this is when considerable preparation and catching up is done. Ridgway teachers do a large amount of work at home - just because you don't see teachers at school doesn't mean they are not working.

Teachers certainly don't expect to suddenly get the perfect solution to all of our problems. They are of course expecting to negotiate and would certainly be open to a graduated response from the government that is implemented over time. Friday's strike is not about greed for a bigger pay rise (despite the current rates being far too low for the training and requirements of the job). The conditions around classroom release, and extra support for students have been ignored completely. We have students in our classes TODAY that deserve a better deal. Your children shouldn't have to suffer and miss out.

Ridgway teachers cannot afford to lose another day's pay - and know you can't either! The situation really is that bad, that NZEI teachers are going ahead with rolling strikes this week. We're asking you to support teachers by keeping your children at home on Friday 16 November. We know this is an inconvenience; we would much rather be at work too.

(Thank you to D. Crate whose message to her school community inspired and forms the basis of this post.)

Note: I made some errors in my initial calculations which I've now corrected. My corrected calculations show that primary teachers are worse off than I first thought.

Kathryn Smith

MoST Content Management V3.0.7525