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Teachers react to Ministry’s pay offer

Teachers say the Ministry of Education’s pay offer to primary school teachers falls short of what is needed. They have also expressed concern that the focus on improving pay for beginning teachers will not fix the growing teacher shortage.

The vast majority of teachers (about 86%) are being offered a pay rise ranging from about 2.2-2.6% a year for three years.

NZEI Te Riu Roa lead negotiator Liam Rutherford said the offer was far from the 16% over two years that members had identified as being necessary to address recruitment and retention issues that had grown during the term of the previous government.

Workload issues have also been largely ignored, as had the request to fund a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in every school, to assist children with additional learning needs. Principals constantly cite the desperate need for greater learning support for their students, and the huge pressure the shortfall puts on already overburdened teaching staff.

“It is now up to members to decide whether to accept the offer or reject it and determine the next steps,” said Mr Rutherford.

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The ministry has offered pay rises averaging 4.3-4.7% per year for three years to teachers in their first three years of working. According to 2016 figures, about 14% of all teachers have been teaching for less than four years.

First-year teachers would go from the current $49,588* to $56,638, 24 months after the agreement was signed.

Steph Lamborn, of NZEI’s New Educator Network, said beginning teachers she had spoken with were unimpressed by the offer.

“They see it as a short-term fix for a handful of the newest teachers. Teaching needs to be a viable long-term career,” she said.

Nationwide Paid Union Meetings to discuss the offer will start soon, with the first to be held at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau on June 18.

Primary school principals will also be holding meetings during the same period to consider their collective agreement offer.

The offer to principals also doesn’t adequately address workload issues and includes a pay increase that varies from approximately 2.0-3.6% per annum for three years depending on roll size.

*Graduate teachers currently start at $49,588, on Step 5 of the scale. Steps 1-4 have been rolled together and offered a payrise of up to 19.2% over three years, but no one starts on these steps because all New Zealand teachers now begin with a degree-level qualification.

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