Opinion: Kate Hawkesby


So, hard on the heels of a teacher shortage, we learn now we’re also short on pilots – how long before it’s principals too?

Like the Kaimai School principal who quit this week.

He quit the profession because the hours and the work was too crazy, too intense, it wasn’t worth it he decided.

Heavy workloads, under resourcing, too much difficulty replacing quitting teachers.

Staff must be a major headache for any school principal.

Come to think of it, staff in general must be the major headache for any employer these days.

All that drama, regulation, rules, structure, training, various leave entitlements, replacing and recruiting – what a headache.

But a particular headache I imagine if you’re job is to find good teachers.

Just finding a teacher is hard enough, let alone a good one.

It’s tough when an industry gets a bad rap, or is viewed as a crappy career option, just ask the nurses.

You’re pretty much left with people who only do it if they love it.

And if they’re not remunerated properly, and the workload’s too intense, the love for it seems to diminish pretty quickly.

The principal who’s thrown in the towel in Tauranga was by all accounts very good at his job.

But he heard a radio ad for tow truck drivers who are earning roughly the same as he is.
That would be a bit of a reality check.

We hear a lot about the teachers, their plight, their strikes, their angst, but at the top of that tree, and probably hearing all of the complaints all day long, every day are the principals.

The good ones have to combine being out hustling for the school, with being in school actually running it.

They must be subject to endless scrutiny from parents and students asking why he or she isn’t in their office, yet at the same time having to be out scouring for more teachers, pushing for more funding, looking for better ways to manage and keep the school visible.

Kaimai’s principal said he felt like he was battling for the teacher, the student and the student’s family – and doing all that without adequate funding or money to get any results for anyone.
That must be enormously frustrating.

And like many of these things, ‘just money’ won’t fix it.

So I hope the Government’s review of the education system takes into account the plights of those involved in all corners of the spectrum -before being a tow truck driver becomes a more appealing profession than working in a school.

Source: NZ Herald


  1. The average base salary of a tier 3 manager in the public service in June, 2016 was $178,019. That same month, the base salary of a principal with a roll of 301 to 500 students (a typical suburban primary school) went up to $108,023, and a secondary principal responsible for more than 2500 students began receiving the princely base salary of $150,641. Before I entered the teaching profession I worked for a number of years in the public service. While tier 3 managers often worked hard, I never encountered one who consistently put in the long hours, or endured the highly stressful daily interactions and responsibilities, of the school principals I have worked for.
    I also never once encountered a public service workplace where staff worked in anything like the ageing, draughty, and noisy classrooms that most teachers find themselves in, nor can I imagine a public service office as under-resourced with respect to furniture, stationery, cleaning products, and other essential work tools.
    In every way, the inequities I have observed between ‘classes’ of government employee – between those who work in the comfortable offices of Wellington, and those who endure significantly inferior pay and conditions in our nation’s schools, is inexcusable.


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