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Secondary teachers set to decide new collective agreement

Secondary teachers throughout Aotearoa New Zealand are holding paid union meetings this week to decide on claims for their new collective agreement. The current secondary teachers’ collective agreement expires at the end of May.

Melanie Webber, New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association Te Wehengarua president, says the environment in which the last collective agreement was settled in 2019 seems like a different world altogether.

“COVID-19 has resulted in huge changes to how teachers work. Delivering lessons via an electronic device was a completely new phenomenon less than two years ago. Teachers rose to the challenge, and mastered digital techniques to ensure students continued to learn.

“It’s fantastic that many teachers have gained a whole new set of skills and many students have learnt how to work much more independently and flexibly. However, this has led to teachers being considered to be accessible at all hours, whether it’s the middle of the day or late at night. And there is an increasing expectation at the moment that teachers will deliver hybrid lessons, i.e. in a classroom with students as well as online with students who are either isolating or choosing to learn from home, which is extremely demanding.

“Also, many teachers are about to spend a huge amount of time on changes to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and the curriculum, that are being introduced from next year. We support the changes which will make NCEA more accessible and fairer for all students and make te ao Māori more visible, but it will mean teachers having to rewrite every programme, every course, every lesson, all assessments and assignments. It’s a huge undertaking.

“Teachers’ incredibly heavy workloads need to be acknowledged and compensated for so they have a healthy work / life balance – students deserve happy, energetic  and healthy teachers.”

Melanie Webber

Melanie Webber said she expected addressing the teacher supply crisis would be a significant element of the collective agreement claim.

“We need more secondary teachers, particularly Maths, Science, Te Reo and Technology teachers. According to an Education Review Office report, released last December, 17 percent of secondary school principals reported in the middle of last year that they could not fill vacant positions.

“The kinds of knowledge, skills and attributes that secondary teachers have are highly sought after, so secondary teachers’ salaries must be sufficient to attract the best graduates into the profession and keep them there.”

Recommendations from the paid union meetings will help form a package of claims that will be tabled when the secondary teachers’ collective agreement negotiations begin in May / June.

New Zealand employment law allows every union to have two paid union meetings each year during normal working hours. During the time of the meeting, students will be sent home. Those who are unable to be at home will be supervised at school.

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