Sunday, 20 October 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Why we are striking on Wednesday 29 May

On Wednesday 29 May, the limelight will shine on New Zealand’s education staffing crisis. In the largest industrial action ever taken in our country, teachers from all schools across New Zealand will strike en masse.

The two unions involved, NZEI Te Riu Roa (with a membership of 50,000) and the PPTA (17,500 members), have lobbied the government over the last decade about growing student numbers and diminishing teacher numbers. The goal of Wednesday’s strike is to highlight this crisis to the nation.

Student numbers in secondary schools are forecast to increase by 10 per cent by 2025 and there aren't enough qualified teachers right now. Four out of every five secondary school principals have had to cancel classes, cut courses and leave vacancies unfilled because of the current teacher shortages.

The past 10 years have seen a 38 per cent decrease in the number of new secondary teachers graduating. Graduates look at careers and pay scales when choosing a career. Currently teaching is not attractive for them. After four years at university, these students will have a large student loan and they are making decisions around earning potential. Only a significant increase in teacher pay will bring their earning potential in line with other graduate careers and encourage them into a life of teaching.

The New Zealand Secondary Principals’ Council chairman, James Morris, says, “Young graduates no longer want to enter the [teaching] profession, the pay is far too low compared to what they earn in other careers and, of the new teachers who do enter the profession, nearly half burn out and leave within five years.”  

There are significantly more students with complex behavioural and learning needs who do not get the support they need in class due to a lack of funding. This compounds the stress in class for teachers and affects the learning outcomes for all students.

The aging teacher workforce is making the teacher shortage even worse. More than one in five secondary teachers is over 60 and there's no plan to replace them when they retire.

All this has resulted in a third of advertised teaching jobs having no suitable applicants and eight per cent of schools without a reliever, according to a recent survey of principals.

The crisis in teaching is real. The children of New Zealand are increasingly finding themselves without specialist qualified teachers. The situation is only going to get worse unless something changes.

You may hear Chris Hipkins, the minister of education, talking about his generous offer, the offer that teachers across New Zealand are rejecting. When accounting for projected inflation, he is offering a pay increase of about 1.7 per cent a year. This will not help solve the teaching crisis.

Paying teachers significantly more, providing better working conditions and making teaching an attractive career for our brightest and best graduates is a change that will benefit all of New Zealand. Future generations deserve well-qualified, well-paid, expert teachers. We are striking on 29 May to help ensure there remain quality teachers for New Zealand’s future.

Pictured: Teachers about to strike down the main street of Whitianga, beginning at the Mercury Bay Rugby Club.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.