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.


  1. Extremely well explained and summarized.

  2. I feel really conflicted about this. I remember being totally shell-shocked when Tomorrows' Schools came in. It became law before submissions on it had closed. I resigned my permanent teaching position because I totally opposed the whole concept of competitive schools. It has been a disaster. Teachers stayed put where they were safe, white flight became a reality, we lost specialists, school psychologists, and above all a basically equitable education system. There were faults in the old system of course, but minor considering what has transpired since then. Helen Clark's Labour government softened the impact a little, but did nothing to fundamentally change what had become the status quo. Then National, with Hekia Parata at the helm, spurred on by John Key enforced national standards despite all the contrary evidence that was available at the time that it would be a disaster and would not enhance children's ability to learn. So nine years followed of another strait jacket for teachers. The first thing the Labour Coalition did was abandon national standards. But plenty of damage had already been done. I spoke, earlier this year to a newly qualified teacher who was really worried. How was she going to deduce where her students were at academically?? So the strait jacket is going to take a while to shrug off, and allow teachers to once again be able to assess, using their teaching skills, to ascertain the progress or lack of it in individual students. And so we come to the striking environment that is happening now. I just wish the NZEI would exhibit a little more patience. This government is presently reviewing the whole of Tomorrows' Schools, with the probable outcome of dismantling that whole system. Why not wait until the review is done? It really feels that, despite what was well articulated by meulater, that even though the bullies have left the playground (Parata, etc.,) teachers are by and large acting as though they are still there. And yes, I know I am old, no longer teaching, but I have had a strong and long background of activism in all the human rights issues that have peppered this country since the sixties. Teachers striking now feels wrong. Teacher activists should be vigilant, yes, and work with the present government to keep them on the appropriate educational track that will nullify for good the competitive teaching model which churns out those who succeed and those who don't.
    Sally Quaddel

  3. From someone that is on a low (and i mean ) low income, the teachers at present are looking a bit selfish to me.

    1. I can understand that. But teachers have degrees and other qualifications and skills that could earn them more in other professions. Also, when you divide what a teacher may get a fortnight by how many hours they actually worked, they earn diddly bloody squat.

  4. You know what? Teachers dnt get holidays, they actually work all year round to give your children a good start in life... Teachers are thinking every day about your children and what they can do to inspire them in learning. They are babysitters, counselors and wear many other hats in their profession. Its us parents that get the holidays, how many hours of the day do we spend time with our children... venting done

  5. Thanks for this. So, basically the previous National government distracted teachers so much with threatening to introduce crazy destructive policies that teachers' focus was on responding to those rather than the systemic underfunding. Now that a non-crazy Labour-led coalition is in, teachers are no longer distracted by opposing crazy policies, so they can now vent their fury about their appalling working conditions that deteriorated so significantly under National (together with the damage to societal cohesion and resilience during this time that has exponentially increased demands on teachers). It just seems slightly unfair that the new goverment wears this though and not the previous government that caused it. Acknowledging this loudly would probably help teachers in their negotiations with the new govt.
    [Aside: I also have the impression that teachers threatening to strike under a National govt doesn't work because National don't care about children in state education (doesn't affect them) and would effectively blame teachers for the impacts of the strike action. Whereas the new govt does care so will be impacted by the action.]

  6. I support the teachers strike

  7. I think your arguments are valid
    Unfortunately the rampant left wing union which the teachers truly are
    Takes away from their cause
    My pet hate “ all teachers are the same none should be paid or rewarded better than others “
    Heck if only that were true
    There are food and bad teachers
    Remuneration should reflect that