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New offer on the cards? Union silence has teachers on tenterhooks

UPDATE: NZEI releases statement on new school support staff collective agreement. 

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said: “Support staff are the glue that hold our schools together. Quality teaching and learning can’t happen without them and they are long overdue improved pay and conditions that recognise their skills and their value to our students.”

Members at more than 200 meetings around New Zealand will discuss and vote on the plan, which is in two parts – immediate issues like pay increases, allowances and study leave, as well as speedy progress on pay equity, which offers the best opportunity to make significant improvements to pay rates and job security. The teacher aide pay equity process is nearing completion and NZEI Te Riu Roa is pushing for the negotiating phase to begin as soon as possible. Members have been involved in  a comprehensive process with the Ministry of Education to assess the work of teacher aides and comparable male-dominated roles.

The Support Staff in Schools Collective Agreement (SSCA) and the Kaiarahi i Te Reo, Therapists’, ATSSD (assistants to teachers of students with severe disabilities) and Special Education Assistants Collective Agreement both expire on 15 July 2019. Support staff on the SSCA work in primary and secondary schools and include teacher aides, office and administration staff, librarians and technicians. 

The other agreement covers: 

  • Assistants to teachers of students with severe disabilities (ATSSD), working alongside teachers, helping with the education of students with severe disabilities.
  • Special education assistants, who work alongside teachers and therapists, helping with the education of students with physical disabilities.
  • Kaiarahi i te reo, who are fluent in te reo Māori and have an in-depth knowledge of Māori traditions and beliefs, and work alongside a teacher supporting Māori language.
  • Therapists, who are nationally registered physiotherapists and/or occupational therapists holding a current annual practising certificate.


Union news dries up while new MoE talks continue and PPTA cancels this week’s strike.

While we were all waiting with baited breath to find out whether NZEI would announce a member vote on rolling strikes to parallel the PPTA’s, it seems PPTA has backtracked. Hopefully this is a good sign, or show of good faith, that negotiations are getting somewhere with Hipkins. However, not everyone is confident in the process. 

Some commentators, such as The Spinoff‘s David Seymour have advocated that government look to scale teachers’ pay rises based on merit, so that ‘good teachers’ earn a lot more. But this view has oft-faced backlash, with the most pertinent question being, how does one measure the ‘goodness’ of a teacher? Most of the time, ‘good teachers’ are synonymous with ‘selfless teachers’ and that is very much part of the problem. There’s no remuneration for selflessness: teachers who spend their lunch breaks helping struggling students don’t get an extra few dollars. 

Commenting in the ‘I Back the teachers’ Facebook group, High School teacher Annetjie Botha shared her itinerary as an example of how hard it is to maintain wellbeing and manage workload. She said: “This is how today went: I taught P1 and 2.  Then assembly. Then on duty during interval. Then taught 3 and 4.

“Lunch time I had 3 students with me who wagg school constantly – I asked them to come in to finish a Level 3 assessment. One student I hunted down in the playground. I ate my lunch while helping them. Then I taught P5. After 3pm I had a student who needed clarification on an internal. At 3.30 I had my second cup of tea for the day.

“I could have had lunch and let 3 students miss out on credits and I could have ignored the student after school. That would have given me 1.5 hours ‘extra’ – BUT that is not what a caring teacher does.

School News will keep you in the loop with any further updates this week. 


Following the mega-strike: PPTA announced rolling strikes for the foreseeable future, NZEI has yet to announce its next move (but  slammed the new wellbeing budget) and Hipkins has invited all parties to new talks scheduled for Thursday. 

One teacher told School News that post-strike, they felt frustrated with the lack of change but determined to continue. There has been an overwhelming amount of public support for the striking profession, with the ‘I Back the Teachers’ Facebook group now boasting more than 11,000 members. 

Still, for now the Ministry is holding on to its ‘no more money’ offer.  

“I have invited the leaderships of the NZEI and PPTA unions to meet with me and the Ministry of Education next week,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Saturday.

“The issues being raised by teachers are many, varied and complex. The Government is committed to taking action to address those concerns progressively over time.

“These talks, set down for Thursday 6 June, will focus on how we can do this. We will make no further comment until after the parties have met.”

Wellbeing budget “should’ve been braver”

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said the budget has failed to address the chronic under-funding of education we’ve seen over the last decade.

“$150 per student for decile 1-7 schools that stop collecting donations is a very welcome step and will relieve some pressure on families and schools budgets. But outside of that, school operations grants and early childhood education are simply seeing increases that keep up with inflation and population growth. This isn’t the transformational change we need to address the crisis in education.”

“Our members had a clear set of priorities they wanted to see addressed in this budget. They wanted to see a pay jolt for teachers, increased funding for early childhood education, more support for children with additional learning needs, a more substantial increase in school operational funding, and smaller class sizes.”

“The Education Minister has been telling us to expect to be disappointed – and he wasn’t wrong. This goes beyond the current situation with primary teachers and principals – this budget largely disappoints across the board for education,” she says.

“A society’s wellbeing depends on a well-funded education system. We understand the government has numerous competing problems to solve and we welcome the increased investment in social spending, but we need to see increased investment in our education system too.”

PPTA president Jack Boyle said: “While we support the focus on well-being and mental health and the funding to replace school donations, we wish the government had been braver. Education, health and housing are the bedrock of our society. We have to get it right.”

“Teacher shortages are dragging our education system down and there is nothing concrete in this budget to address them.”

“If it chose to the government could easily resource a highly skilled teacher workforce. We wonder why they don’t realise how important it is.”

“We recognise that the social deficits in health, education and welfare are the consequences of a long period of neglect before this government took power. By not addressing them, the government fails to be a transformative government. A government with no plan offers no hope,” Jack Boyle says.

“We want to bring out the best in every young person and that’s getting harder and harder. It’s passionate, expert teachers who lay the groundwork for a strong society, and at the moment we simply can’t attract enough people willing and able to take on this role.”

“Teachers believe the government had an opportunity today to invest much, much more into our public services. Putting artificial fiscal constraints on this spending is a false economy. A well-resourced education system is vital to the nation.”

“I sincerely hope we’re not saying the same things next year when we see this government’s third budget.”

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.
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