I also know that my colleagues are over worked, many are struggling financially, many feel their students are getting the raw end of the stick and many are wanting to bail. And if I do not see any real change by the end of 2020, I may bail too. I can't sustain my workload forever. Already my health has suffered in the last year.
I also know this government has a healthy surplus. Finance Minister Grant Robertson talks about saving the money for a rainy day. Well Grant, the rainy day for teachers is bloody well here.
Minister Chris Hipkins claims there is no more money for teacher Collective Agreement negotiations. His MOE negotiation team keep recutting the same pie over and over again, but it will not solve the problems the teacher population currently face.
Last year our NZEI negotiators went into the Collective Agreement negotiations for primary teachers with four issues on top for teachers across New Zealand:
- a pay jolt - we asked for a 16% pay rise over a two year contract
- a plan for recruitment and retention - the numbers entering teacher training have dropped dramatically in recent years and the number of experienced teachers leaving the profession have created a teacher supply crisis as schools struggle to staff themselves and put teachers in front of classrooms full-time, let alone when a staff member is sick.
- a reduction of workload - while National Standards have gone, the assessment are still there. ERO and the MOE still demands a lot of assessment information. There are a few principals who need some direction about teacher inquiry too. But a lot of stuff has been piled onto teachers via the Teacher's Council which became the Education Council and is now known as the Teaching Council and it has blown completely out of control as planning to justify the reading of a story is expected by some principals under the guise of needing it to sign off teacher appraisals and registration requirements. Then there are the excessive meetings and the paper work for getting extra assistance for students.
- help for students with special learning needs, so we asked for a SENCO in every school - these students often have learning needs over and above what the average classroom teacher can manage without support. But where does this support come from currently? How much education are these children missing out on because there is a lack of funding and expertise to access what these children should be getting?
The negotiators for NZEI told the stories of thousands of teachers and why these were the issues they wanted addressed. I was told by a negotiator that they were rather disinterested in the stories and even disputed the truth of the stories.
These issues were the issues we as a membership voted as our claim in March 2018. These issues have not changed. So to hear Minister Hipkins claim a number of times that the claim has changed and that teachers don't agree on the claim is rather annoying.
Like schools across the country have different issues that are on top for them, teachers across NZ also have issues on top for them. I put this to Minister Hipkins in a tweet thread earlier this week.
Now they have bunched those options together and claimed that we want all of the options and we won't budge and it will cost $4 billion over four years to implement all of these options. Remember, we put these as a range of options to be negotiated on as to which could be implemented. We did not put these on the table as a combined must do package.
And a couple of days later I felt it important to emphasise this again.
Teachers currently feel that Minister Hipkins is no better than Hekia Parata as they do not feel he is listening to them. I'm sure Chris is listening and feeling like he is caught between a rock and a hard place - I hear the rock is Winston Peters and the hard place is Grant Robertson.
In the mean time I hear the stories of teachers struggling and those who have left the profession:
This is just a snapshot of what I am currently hearing and what I have been hearing for the last four or five years, in person and via social media.
So why have we been refusing the MOE offer?
- the pay offer does not stack up.
- while the government last week announced a $94 million package to attract people into initial teacher education, there is NOTHING offered to retain current teachers.
- there is an offer for an extra 2.5 hours of classroom release time per term - that's 150 minutes divided by 10 weeks of term equally 15 minutes a week. I guess it gives me time to go to the toilet once a week and maybe make a coffee.
- while they government in November 2018 announced an ambitious plan for 600 inclusive education co-ordinators.... there's still a lot of questions and the feeling this is not enough and will not impact on classroom teachers very much.
In the meantime the Minister of Education has been talking up the MOE offer and telling all and sundry there is no more money. Mr Hipkins has made much of the idea that teachers will be increasing their wage on average by $10,000 if we accept the MOE offer. This is disingenuous, or just not accurate. And so this tweet stream below illustrates that.
For a better look at that extra step, here is the picture Chris Crumble kindly supplied me.
I'm not holding my breath on this new step however. I feel this may disappear in the final wash.
The ethos of this post is just to say, don't believe everything that you are hearing come from the Minister. He is a good Minister. But his hands are tied by Cabinet and he's been given his lines. As a profession, if we want to uplift the status of our profession, we need to target the big players in Cabinet alongside Mr Hipkins.
We need to focus on the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters. Race Courses have done well under Mr Peters, but he needs to listen to Tracey Martin more - and send Tracey letters too, after all, she is the Associate Minister of Education. Grant Robertson's mum is a teacher, so Grant should know better - let's keep the pressure on him. Dr David Clark is not only the Minister of Health, he is also an Associate Finance Minister - so let's apply pressure there too. Phil Twyford may be Minister of Housing and Transport, but he has a lot of sway in that Cabinet - hit him with the letters too.
Finally, the 29th of May with our mega strike with the secondary teachers offers us new leverage. Let's not let the momentum fail after that and let's keep the pressure on this government because we teachers are worth more.