10 May 2019

Auckland principal backs higher pay, smaller workload for teachers

5:47 am on 10 May 2019

Auckland's dire teacher shortage will not improve until the government boosts teachers' pay and reduces their workloads, the city's principals say.

Teachers attending the PPTA meeting today in Manukau, Auckland. 7 November 2018.

Teachers attend a PPTA meeting in Auckland last November. Secondary and primary teachers are contemplating joint strike action over their pay offers later this month. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

The leaders of the Auckland Primary Principals Association and the Auckland Secondary Principals Association said extra government spending to help relieve the teacher shortage was welcome, but the root cause of the problem was teachers' pay and conditions.

They made their comments as members of the Post Primary Teachers Association and the Educational Institute were voting on whether to hold a joint strike at the end of the May over pay offers worth just over nine percent over three years. The unions were expected to announce the result of their ballots on Monday.

Craig Holt from the city's Primary Principals Association said principals and teachers were resigning because of the demands of the job or the expense of living in Auckland and he himself was quitting education at the end of this school term.

"The workload is obviously significant and being a principal you know that when you get into it, but I think mainly it's you've just got nothing to offer back to the teachers anymore when they come to you looking for support or for answers," he said.

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An Auckland principal says he has never seen such low morale among teaching staff. Photo: RNZ / YouTube

Mr Holt said stalled pay talks for primary school teachers and principals were not helping.

"Workload's massive and the pay negotiations that are going on at the moment, or are ongoing, are really having an impact on teachers' mindsets. I think if something significant isn't put in front of teachers over the next couple of weeks by the government I think you'll find this problem is just going to get worse," he said.

Mr Holt said teachers' morale was at rock bottom. "The morale at the moment, I've never known it to be so low. We had a meeting the other day with our teachers, we had teachers in tears. We just haven't seen that before. I think teachers have had enough."

Auckland Secondary Principals Association acting president Tom Webb said the supply of secondary teachers in Auckland was "pretty dire" and schools were having to persuade retired teachers to come back and work in classrooms in shortage subjects such as maths.

Mr Webb said the government's extra spending on teacher recruitment and training in the past six months was good, but ultimately it needed to offer teachers a better deal than what was now on the table.

"A good settlement with the ministry would definitely help what's happening in schools," Mr Webb said.

"We've got stories of people leaving the profession because they can't see any progress. A quote from a colleague who had a teacher say to them 'nothing is going to happen about the pay and so I'm off, I'm leaving the profession'."

Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins does not believe the nation's teachers should be going on strike. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the government's offers to teachers and principals were good.

"We've always been very clear that we can't do everything all at once. What we've got on the table at the moment is a very large pay increase relative to others in recent times, so $1.2 billion that would cost the government and that's more than all of the settlements reached under the last government put together," he said.

Mr Hipkins said the government could not meet all of teachers' demands at once and he did not want them to strike.

"I don't think teachers should be going on strike. I don't want teachers to be going on strike. We worked very hard to avoid that. Ultimately, decisions around that are going to be for their union."

The government has refused to increase the total $1.2 billion value of its offers to primary teachers and principals and to secondary principals. However the Education Ministry has reorganised the offers to provide different options for pay rises and non-contact time.

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