BY JULIA WADE
Armed with placards, slogans and humorous comradery, local school educators came together on a busy Mangawhai intersection recently, en route to join New Zealand’s largest-ever education protest, aka the ‘mega-strike’.
Gathering on the corner of Moir and Inlsey Street, Mangawhai Beach School (MBS) staff and teachers, as well as some parents and students, received a rousing show of horn support from passing motorists, before heading to either Whangarei or Auckland to join a nationwide collective of 50,000 educators and staff on for a planned, non-paid day of protest marches on March 29.
MBS principal Aaron Kemp says while a fair pay increase and pay parity with secondary teachers is on the agenda, the strike is not just about money.
An ever-increasing workload due to government assessment requirements and having to deal with a growing number of students with complex needs without extra support, are the main concerns of teachers.
“We’re just tired of not being supported,” he says. “We are having to manage a growing number of student’s specials needs and challenging behaviours… we have the same problems as secondary schools but do not have access to the same resources… we are stretched.”
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), New Zealand teachers have some of the highest workloads, largest classrooms and lowest pay rates in the developed world, ranking 19th behind the UK, USA, Australia and Canada.
Due to the workload and low pay rates, educators fear potential new teachers will not be attracted to the profession and the supply will dwindle, leaving current educators to either cope with ever-increasing classroom sizes or cause an escalation of teachers resigning.
“It is increasingly difficult to get teachers now, especially quality teachers,” Kemp says. “When we used to advertise for staff for Mangawhai Beach School, we used to get about 50 applicants, now I would only get three to five, and they are usually from overseas. I’ve got amazing teachers but we definitely need more.”
The May 29 strike was hoping to send ‘a strong message to the government’ to address the crisis, provide support and ‘for teachers to be recognised as the professionals they are’.
For more details about the crisis visit nzei.org.nz
Mangawhai Beach School staff send a message to government as they make their way to join colleagues from around the country for New Zealand’s educational mega-strike. PHOTO/JULIA WADE
“We’re just tired of not being supported. We are stretched.”