The principals’ and teachers’ union, the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI), has called for the day of action on August 9, saying green was chosen “because it’s part of our campaign branding and it’s a positive, optimistic colour”.

An NZEI newsletter to principals, obtained by the Herald, suggests that the event should be advertised in school newsletters “so parents and children can join in with wearing green and demonstrating their support if they want to”.

The union has also asked principals to ask their board of trustee chairs to sign an open letter supporting the principals to be published in newspapers this coming weekend.

However some boards have refused to sign and are concerned about using school newsletters to promote the day of action.

The principals rejected a $64 million pay offer from the Ministry of Education last month because it was proportionately less than a $1.5 billion offer accepted by rank-and-file teachers, exacerbating a longstanding complaint that senior teachers in large primary schools can earn more than principals of the smallest schools.

The principals’ representative on the NZEI executive, Berhampore School principal Mark Potter, said the primary principals also wanted parity with secondary principals for schools of the same size – a principle that was won for rank-and-file teachers in the 1990s.

The standard pay scales for primary and secondary principals of similar-sized schools are almost identical, but Potter said different allowances meant there were gaps of “a couple of per cent” before allowing for any increase that secondary principals may negotiate.

The secondary principals started their negotiations later than the other groups. Secondary Principals’ Association union president Scott Haines said they would meet ministry negotiators again tomorrow.

“We are hopeful that it won’t be long before we receive an offer that we will be able to take to our members,” he said.

He said there had been no talks with the primary principals on collaborating. But if the secondary principals agree on a deal soon it may help to focus the primary principals’ negotiations.

Potter said NZEI president Lynda Stuart and secretary Paul Goulter would meet ministry officials again later this week to discuss the primary principals’ claims.

The NZEI newsletter said actions planned or suggested for August 9 included:

• Information in the school newsletter ahead of the day so parents and children can join in with wearing green and demonstrating their support if they want to.

• Making displays with messages of support in public areas of the school.

• Creating places for parents and community to add their own messages of support.

• Having shared green-themed morning teas and sharing photos on social media.

• Teachers and support staff meeting parents at the school gate before and after school to talk about the issues for principals.

• Asking parents to think about putting something green (like a scarf or ribbon) in their car (passenger) windows when they drop their children off.

School Trustees Association Auckland regional chair James Lochead-MacMillan said he had no objection to the proposed actions.

“While it’s not having any impact on children, I’m not sure boards have a particular problem with it,” he said.

But Whangārei Intermediate School board chair Derek Slatter said he had declined to sign the open letter supporting principals because he felt that was not the board’s role.

“It would be similar to asking a principal to sign a letter in support of a School Trustees Association governance initiative,” he said.

He was concerned about promoting the day of action through school newsletters.

“There is a line of what is appropriate and that would be starting to approach the line. It really comes down to what the actual words are,” he said.

Meanwhile the Human Rights Commission has written to the ministry offering to mediate on a claim by Hastings Boys’ High School teacher Justin Lindsay that a clause in the teachers’ pay deal giving union members a pay rise 10 weeks before non-union members constituted “discrimination on the prohibited ground of political opinion”.

Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the ministry received the commission’s letter today and was considering its response.

She declined to comment on whether principals should promote their day of action in school newsletters, saying: “We trust principals to be the professional leaders of their schools.”

She said the ministry was continuing to talk with NZEI “to understand how the $64m package might be adjusted to best meet their members’ needs”.

NZ Herald

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