6 Aug 2019

Principals' six-week boycott delays support for some students

11:04 am on 6 August 2019

Primary and intermediate school principals' boycott of the Education Ministry has delayed support for some students, the ministry says.

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Photo: 123RF

Members of the Educational Institute began the six-week boycott in July over their stalled pay talks and will decide at meetings next week whether to extend it to the middle of October.

The ministry's deputy secretary, early learning and student achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid, confirmed the ministry had cancelled or postponed some meetings because of the action.

"This has caused minor delays to some aspects of the education work program and in a very small number of cases has meant we've had to delay decisions concerning services for individual students and their families," she said.

"The action has had minimal impact on the July roll return, delaying our standard timeframes by a few days. It is too early to say if there's been an impact on attendance data collection as primary and secondary schools have until the end of August to submit their attendance data to us."

Whetu Cormick, president of the NZ Principals' Federation.

Whetu Cormick. Photo: Supplied

The president of the Principals' Federation, Whetu Cormick, said a lot of its members were refusing to cooperate with the ministry to the extent that some were refusing to answer phone calls from ministry staff.

"We're not attending any high-level meetings at all with the ministry. In terms of what's happening on the ground, I'm hearing anecdotally that some principals are choosing not to engage with the ministry and that includes taking phone calls. It also includes not sending in their roll returns and also the attendance data-gathering exercise," he said.

The boycott was scheduled to finish on 16 August, but if it was extended until mid-October it would delay the ministry's collection of schools' term two attendance figures, which were due at the end of this month.

Mr Cormick said things like that were a set back for the ministry.

"From the ministry's perspective any data-gathering exercise is really important and they've got their schedules of timelines to fulfil, so by principals choosing not to send this information it's just holding up processes at the other end," he said.

The president of the NZEI, Lynda Stuart, said she had been told most of the union's members were observing the boycott and it had forced the ministry to postpone some meetings.

"Certainly what I'm hearing is that our members are being very staunch around it. It has meant that things like the education workforce strategy group has had to cancel meetings because people are not attending, so yes, it is having an impact."

(from left ) NZEI Te Riu Roa vice president Liam Rutherford; NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart; Russell School principal Sose Annandal.

Lynda Stuart. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Ms Stuart said the government was trying to make a lot of changes in schools, including through the yet-to-be-finalised Tomorrow's Schools Review, but it would not be able to do much if principals were not helping.

She said the union's members would meet next week to decide whether to extend the boycott and whether to strike on Thursday 22 August.

Ms Stuart said the union was open to further negotiations but would not comment on what talks the union's leadership might be having with government ministers or the ministry.

Meanwhile, the Post Primary Teachers' Association said secondary principals were still waiting for an offer from the ministry in their collective agreement negotiations.

The outcome of those talks would have a direct bearing on primary and intermediate principals who were demanding pay parity with their secondary school colleagues.

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