Sunday, 14 October 2018

Chris Hipkins, I have the solution to the teacher supply crisis!

Today, Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, announced an extention to the programme to recruit 850 teachers from overseas, up from the original 400 teachers, hoping to attract New Zealand teachers currently teaching off shore. This follows the MOE asking Immigration NZ to put teaching on the skills shortage list on Friday.

This plan has a fatal flaw however. As NZEI president Lynda Stuart pointed out in the NZEI press release today, "Overseas recruitment may be necessary given this crisis point, but it's a bandaid solution - there's a global shortage of teachers, and if we don't do something about the workload and remuneration of teachers, overseas teachers won't last in the system any longer than our homegrown teachers."

Everyday in the last two weeks I have heard of teachers quiting teaching to do something else in New Zealand or leaving New Zealand to be a teacher overseas.  I've also heard repeated stories from teachers who came home from teaching overseas to New Zealand, only to discover they worked such long hours in New Zealand for such poor pay they never saw their families, so they have gone back overseas for worklife balance.

On top of all this is the last National led government's Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye, telling the current Minister, Mr Hipkins, that he is not doing enough.  See this press release via Voxy.  A complete act of hypocrisy considering during nine long years of National, teachers were villified for "failing students", given 1% pay rises and had increasing teacher workloads amongst all the GERM battles.

So my message to Minister Hipkins is this - the fastest way to get teachers into our classrooms is to attract those who have recently left back. How can that happen:
  • a pay jolt.
  • reduce workload (get ERO to pull their head in and stop insisting on useless data and let schools use their small data to drive the learning).
  • reduce class sizes.
  • increase classroom release - teachers shouldn't have to be using their weekends and evenings to do work in preparation for school and dealing with data input and writing reports.
  • give us more help for children with special needs - a SENCO in every school.
Solve all these issues and we wouldn't be hemorrhaging teachers from our schools.

In regards to teachers required to do the Teacher Refresher Course to retain a practicing certificate, I believe we should be approaching that differently and with a more cost effective programme. Instead of doing the course:
  • those returning to the classroom in either a fulltime or part-time role should be getting an advice and guidance programme for a minimum of one term.
  • relief teachers should have a base school with which they can do PLD and receive guidance and appraisal to meet the conditions for being a reliever. 
Then we have the problem of attracting people to the profession via training programmes.  Over the last ten years universities have been under pressure to put bums on seats.... but teaching has become unattractive.  

Universities have slashed and burned their faculties that do initial teacher education.  The Faculty of Education at Waikato University is unloved, nothing has changed physically since I did my initial teacher education in the 1990s.  Add to that the fact Prof Neil Quigley has gutted the Faculty of staff, it is even grimmer.

Now we have the University of Auckland cutting most of its initial teacher education programmes and staff and its advisory service.  How will this help with the need to train new teachers?

I understand that the current negotiations with primary teachers and principals and secondary teachers mean that co-operation between the Minister's office and unions has taken a battering and is on hold, but we really need to suck it up on both sides to work together to solve these issues.  

The Ministry of Education continuing to offer teachers pay rises without addressing the issues of workload (class sizes, classroom release, etc.), recruitment and retention, and special education is not helping.  

Tracey Martin is doing great work in special education, but that is a proposal currently.  Teachers have seen working party after working party over the last two decades with nothing achieved and won't wait anymore for this issue to be addressed.  Hence why it is in our pay claim.  

Until the Minister gets ERO to pull their heads in, principals have their hands tied to reduce workload and teachers continue to collect data that does not necessarily mean much.

Without classroom release, teachers will continue to be forced to use their family time to work in the evenings and at weekends.  Chris Hipkins will claim we don't have enough release teachers because we have a teacher shortage.  I think the teachers will emerge from the woodwork to do the release if they increase classroom release.

So Chris, how far are you prepared to come to solve the teacher crisis?

You should have hired me when you had the chance, but I went back to teaching.  But if you ask my current boss Nigel nicely, I'm sure he'll let me pop down to Wellington to help you out.  Jacinda has his contact details.  But then again, I'm pretty sure you have mine.  😁😁😁

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Why didn't teachers strike when National was in? I'll tell you what we did!!

Why were teachers so quiet when National was the government?  They didn't kick up a fuss then.

Why didn't teachers go on strike when National was the government?

They've been offered heaps more that National offered.  So why are teachers being so unreasonable?

Teachers get so many holidays and only work from 9 until 3, so why are they complaining about workload?

If teachers don't pull their head in, Labour will be a one term government.  Then where will that leave them?

You know, I've seen these statements and questions a lot.  I've heard them from Labour party members.  I've seen them on the NZ Teachers Facebook page.  I've seen them on various Facebook pages.  I've seen them in the Stuff/Herald comments.  I've even seen and heard it from teachers themselves.

This blog post aims to put that to bed.  Because teachers did not sit quietly during National's tenure.  They, with the NZEI and PPTA, stood strong against #GERM neoliberal policies set up to destroy our free quality public education system.  Because of teachers, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and the coalition government have the bones and a bit of flesh still left.

Teachers opposed National Standards - this could have evolved into a national testing system like in the UK or Australia or the US, all countries sliding down educational world rankings.  NAPLAN in Australia, Key Stage Testing in the UK and the plethora of testing across the US has dragged those countries down.  National had a national testing regime on their radar back in the 1990s and it was only a Labour led government being formed in 1999 and continued union opposition alongside quality academic information that prevented it from coming to fruition then.

We stood firm against allowing PaCT to take traction within our education system.  This tool would have been used to monitor teachers and as a gateway to introduce performance pay.

Our teachers, with the unions, stood firm against performance pay - this system does not work.  It does not promote a core value of teaching: collaboration.  It is ripe for fraud by teachers and being used by senior leaders unethically, clearly demonstrated in the US and UK.

Teachers opposed privatisation of our state schools - how many more charter schools and public private partnerships would have been established without the teachers standing firm against these measures that have devastated the English education system and the education systems of US cities like New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit?  NZEI and PPTA led the opposition to charter schools.  But really, the evidence from overseas speaks for itself.

Remember that time in 2012 when Hekia Parata had the brilliant idea of increasing class sizes?  Remember the impact that was going to have, particularly on intermediate schools and their specialist teachers?  That was a campaign led by NZEI, PPTA and AIMS (Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools) to raise public awareness and get the parents onside.  And it worked.  Poll numbers showed National losing core support from middle New Zealand, from the "Mums and Dads" John Key always blah blahhed on about.  So he made the call to Hekia from Europe, and nek minute, the back downs of all back downs saw Ms Parata back down.

Teachers, through NZEI and PPTA, vehemently opposed many of the changes to the Teachers' Council.  Hekia Parata, despite 90+% of submissions opposing, changed it to the Education Council and removed the right of teachers to vote on their own representatives to their professional bodies.  Other changes made by the new Education Council have also directly led to the issues we face with a shortage of teachers and relief teachers.  We are incredibly thrilled to see the changes go back through Parliament during September to return the democratic right of teachers to elect their own representatives to our governing body.

Us teachers not only thwarted efforts by previous Education Minister Hekia Parata to increase class sizes, but also her attempt to reintroduce the failed policy of the 1990s, bulk funding (disguised as global funding).  That took a concerted effort.  In fact we can thank Hekia for doing something no Education Minister had previously achieved: uniting NZEI and the PPTA in a common cause.  Add in E Tu, who represent cleaners and caretakers in our schools, and we ran a formidable campaign that forced Ms Parata to back down from global funding including the #betterfunding for #betterlearning bus and campervan tours.  NZEI and PPTA remain close and united while advancing their own kaupapa.

We were not quiet during the National years; we were considerate. 

Considerate that the country was suffering from the Global Financial Collapse.

Considerate of the country needing to put Christchurch first after the September 2010 earthquake and the February 2011 earthquake and all the aftershocks. 

We saw the Rockstar Economy proclaimed and received none of the benefits promised to us. 

We saw the silverware sold off and John Key's promises that the asset sales would benefit health and education.... but nothing.

The decision was made last year, well before the election and endorsed by members at our Annual Conference in early October before the new coalition government was established, that no matter the hue of the government, we would no longer be patient.  We would fight for our profession and our students because we are at crisis point. 

We've warned for several years we were in a state of a shortage of teachers. 

We've warned for many years that teachers were burning out under the workload. 

We've warned for many years that too many students are falling through the systematic cracks and teachers are powerless to prevent it.

We made the decision that now #ItsTimeNZEI #KuaTaeTeWa.  Thats why we decided to strike on Wednesday 15 August for a full day.  It's why we are now planning action geographical rolling strikes for the week beginning Monday 12 November.

Many of us worked to put this government in.  They promised to fix things. 

There's more wrong than they knew (but we knew that and have been saying it for years) and it is harder than they expected - but everyone knows Labour coming into government always has to fix a complete disastrous mess created by National. 

But when you have the country's leading economists saying, " Bugger the Budget Responsibility Rules - borrowing is currently cheap and education and health need fixing"... then don't you think that might be a good idea?

Otherwise we condemn yet another election cycle of children to not receiving the Education they are entitled to and we increase the crisis in our teacher workforce.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Why Primary Teachers and Principals (and the Secondary Teachers too) Rejected the MOE Offers

I was last week quite surprised by Acting Education Minister Tracey Martin being surprised by primary teachers and principals rejecting the MOE offer to us.  

Thanks to the amazing Green Grub's lady for this graphic.  Check out Green Grub's Facebook page.
When Mrs Martin came to the NZEI President's Dinner at the NZEI Annual Conference on Sunday night, she told my friend Dianne (from SOSNZ) that she did not understand why teachers had turned down the offer.  Dianne told her it's because teachers are exhausted from the workload.  The work is never ending, and teachers can be their own worst enemy, but they do it for the kids and because there is this never ending demand to accelerate learning. 

Teachers can not wait three more years for this government to get a bit more money to solve these issues.  We are at crisis point now.  We have limited relievers now and teachers are coming to school sick or classes are being split to allow teachers to take sick leave.  

We have students who are not getting the help they should get because teachers are so overworked that they do not get through the referral system in a timely manner and then there is often little funding or no room for that child on the roll of the RTLB or RTLit or there is no speech language therapist available or whatever.

We now have teachers cutting down to 0.8 or less so they can get through the workload in the working week so they can reclaim their weekends for their families.  Some have quite teaching to do relieving so they can be more present in their families.  What is there to attract them back into full-time teaching when the workload is astronomical?  My friend Dianne was offered a full-time teaching job for next year last week - her son cried because "Mum will always be working now".

There has been a 40% drop in people entering initial teacher training in the last five years (unsurprising after the National led government constantly running teachers down over their time in government).  Coupled with the high rate of attrition of teachers within their first five years of teaching leaving our profession for good or heading overseas to greener pastures, we do not have the younger teachers required to replace the aging population of teachers heading towards retirement in the next ten years.  It is predicted we will be up to 1800 teachers short.

As I lay awake this morning (thank you hacking cough), I read a response by Labour MP Marja Lubeck to a comment on a Facebook post by Education Minister Chris Hipkins (currently on paternity leave) he did after attending the PPTA Conference in Wellington yesterday.  

Ms Lubeck also seemed perplexed about why we had rejected the offer and proceeded to lay out what Labour has done in the Education space in the last year.  While these were all things we wanted, not one of them addresses our primary teacher or principal claims.

I wrote this response to Ms Lubeck:

Marja Lubeck Labour List MP, those are all great things, but getting rid of National Standards was not about workload, that was about pedagogy; about not labeling children as failures and "weighing them like pigs".

Democratising the Education Council was important to us because we should have a say in the body governing us.  However, this does not improve my workload.

Providing new classroom spaces does not improve my workload.  However, can someone organise a heat pump to be installed in my prefab; we sweated through term 1 and huddled around a tiny fan heater in terms 2 and 3.  I'm not looking forward to sweating out term 4.

I'm stoked ECE received more funding after years of freezes, however, this will not improve workloads in ECE, primary or secondary sectors - it will just allow centres financial breathing room.
What will improve my workload as a primary teacher?

* release time: currently CRT (Classroom Release Time) for primary teachers is two days a term or, as written in the Primary Teachers Collective Agreement, ten hours per term.  This does not give me enough time to complete all the reading and maths assessments I need to do for my class.  Consequently I need to complete the remainder during time I should be teaching - therefore my class end up doing "busy work" to try and manage them while I try to assess kids.  This is not ideal for the child being assessed or my stress levels.  This also means I get no time to do planning.  Currently I spend three hours minimum after school each day to do my planning, collate assessment, respond to whānau, make resources.... and I am often back at the weekend for at least three hours.  And then there are the meetings...

* Retention and recruitment: where are the incentives for young people to stay in our profession?  Where are the incentives to join our profession?  Why would a young person choose a job that pays possibly $50,000 but requires you to work 60 hour weeks and subsidise the education system out of their own pocket when they could work at 40 hour week elsewhere and not being using their own money to get the job done?  Where's the incentive for teachers who left our profession or cut back from fulltime to 0.8 so they could have family life to be full time teachers or relief teachers?

* A SENCO in every school: our most vulnerable kids are missing out.  Recently half of one of my CRT days was spent on working on an RTLB referral for one child.  That's 1/4 of my CRT time for the term on ONE CHILD.  Is that efficient use of my time?  It's still incomplete.  I haven't had time to go back to it.  Meanwhile a child goes without help.  A fulltime SENCO would have it sorted well and truly by now because that would be their focus.

Teachers are burning out.

I've already left the profession once due to National Standards.  I came back because of the promise of a Labour led government.  If nothing changes in regards to workload, I will be yet another teacher forced to leave the profession again in order to preserve my own health and wellbeing.

Many people will say we need to go a bit easier or this will be a one term government, that the cupboard is bare and they need time.  We don't have time.  Teaching is at a crisis point of a lack of teachers and the others burning out.  Children have missed out for too long already due to austerity in education.  I worked bloody hard in 2017 to get a change of government, and I will work bloody hard to ensure they are still the government beyond 2020... but our teachers and our children can no longer wait.  

This government needs to deliver to teachers and children to ensure Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's goal to make New Zealand the best place in the world for a child to grow up in.