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.


  1. Good luck with all that. The political elite suffer from selective hearing so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for change.

  2. This crisis will only get worse over the next few years because of the large number of teachers aged 55 or more. This will only increase teacher shortages. Already NZ is advertising for teachers overseas.

  3. Education must be removed as the political football of choice! Yes I understand that the Government feel they are responding to the professions crisis. Yes I understand that nine years of disregard by the previous Government has disillusioned the profession. I wonder why the profession was so easily silenced during the 9 year reign of terror. I wonder how Nikki Kaye can front the media and say the Government needs to listen to the profession? Pot? Kettle... much! We will not make any headway with the to and fro act we are enduring with political policy change. I hope the Government take a deep breathe and find the money somewhere to make the profession one of choice, valued, paid accordingly and start to reenergise the battered and bruised educators of Aotearoa. It is time....