3 Oct 2018

Teachers on rejected pay offer: 'It's difficult to focus on my teaching'

4:48 pm on 3 October 2018

The government needs to offer teachers more pay and less work if it wants to avert strikes in primary and secondary schools later this year, teachers say.

Teachers gathering in Wellington.

Teachers protest in August. Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

Teachers told RNZ News there was no single improvement that would make them accept the Education Ministry offers they have rejected.

But they said pay rises higher than the most recent offer of 9.3 percent over three years were essential to attracting more people to the teaching profession and retaining those who are already working in classrooms.

Auckland primary school teacher Jason Downes said three pay increases of three percent each were not enough.

"That basically equates to an extra $40 a week and when we look at the likes of the cost of petrol going up and all those kinds of things, there's just no balance," he said.

"We are looking for a 16 percent, most of us would sort of look at a minimum of 8-10 percent to alleviate some of the pressures that are on teachers."

Mangere primary school teacher Jordan Kaia said he had been teaching for only eight months and he was finding it hard to afford the cost of petrol and rent.

"Living in Auckland, I'm struggling to pay my rent," he said.

Jessica Brown, another Auckland primary school teacher, said she wanted the government to provide an offer that reduced class sizes so she could give her students the attention they deserved.

"Just having the time to be with my students and to teach them, it's just missing from this offer entirely. All the testing that we have to do, the amount of students in my class and then on top of that I've got students with diverse learning needs, some with quite big behavioural challenges. I'm just not able to meet all their needs. It's just horribly unfair."

Southland secondary teacher Nick Gartell said there was no single improvement that would make the government's deal acceptable.

Northland secondary teacher Esther Van Dyke

Northland secondary teacher Esther Van Dyke Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

"I don't think you can say... 'nine, ten percent would get us over the line, we'd be happy'. We want to bring pay up to parity with other professions that are a similar sort of wage," he said.

"It is a combination of things. It is workload, it is acknowledgement that we do a good job."

Northland secondary teacher Esther Van Dyke said she wanted an offer that would attract new people to teaching and make it easier to staff rural schools.

"They need to come to the table with an offer that's reasonable in terms of salary. That is not the most important thing though," she said.

"The workload is extraordinary and it's difficult for me to focus on my teaching when I've got an enormous amount of responsibility outside the classroom that really has little impact inside the classroom."

Secondary teacher Tina Mihaere-Rees from Wellington said Māori teachers needed more recognition of the time they spent supporting Māori students.

"I would like to see a little bit more non-contact time for our Māori teachers. Either that or the community liaison role taking on some of the roles that our Māori teachers take on outside the classroom," she said.

Secondary teacher Tina Mihaere-Rees

Secondary teacher Tina Mihaere-Rees Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

The ministry's offer to primary school teachers was three pay rises of three percent each, with slightly higher increases for principals of small primary schools.

The offer to secondary school teachers was also over three years, with three increases of 2.5 percent for first-year teachers, three percent for the most experienced teachers, and two percent for the salary steps in between. It also proposed raising management allowances from $1000 to $1400.

Members of the Educational Institute were scheduled to vote later this month on a week of rolling one-day strikes in primary and intermediate schools in November.

Members of the Post Primary Teachers Association would vote on 7 November on their own industrial action.

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