By Jesse King
Bells will not ring, doors will not open, teachers will not teach and students will not learn when primary schools close during an educators strike this Wednesday.
Whanganui primary school teachers and principals will gather at 10.45am in the Whanganui City College carpark before marching down Victoria Ave and rallying at Majestic Square.
It follows months of NZEI Te Riu Roa meetings that discussed issues such as poor pay, difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers, and a lack of resources and time to teach.
Teachers and parents met at St John’s Hill School on Parkes Ave on Friday to discuss the looming strike.
Lauren Symes has three children attending the school and her oldest recently departed for Whanganui Intermediate School.
“I sit in the classroom every Friday when the junior classes do discovery, which is where they get away from their desks for a while and do something hands-on,” Symes said.
“The biggest change I’ve noticed is the challenging behaviour that is in classes now and the lack of support for teachers with them.”
Symes is a stay-at-home mum. When her older children began school she still had babies to look after but, now that they have grown up, she is able to help out at the school.
“The biggest eye-opener for parents would be to come and sit in a classroom,” she said.
“When you sit in a classroom you can see what action is needed, you see that it’s not just about pay, it’s about gaining resources and teacher aides and all of that.
“People have no idea.”
Symes supports the strike action, but admits that it is disruptive.
“Parents are busy, they’re working, there are probably a lot of parents that want to help out in schools, but just don’t have the time,” she said.
“With parents who are both working fulltime, how do they cope with strikes? They’re looking at having to pay someone to do it or they have to rely on grandparents.”
There were over 20 members of staff and students’ parents at the meeting. They were addressed by St John’s Hill School principal Michael Fitzgerald.
“It has been 24 years since teachers have taken this sort of action and it’s because of how passionate we are about it that we’re standing firm,” Fitzgerald said.
“We’re striking for the future of our kids. That’s the main message we want to give because we do see it as a crisis in education.”
He said there has been a 40 per cent decline in teacher applications in recent years.
“Resourcing is probably key to most teachers concerned – we’ve got increased kids with learning and behavioural needs.
“Support for these learners is critical if we want to make a difference. Who’s going to be sitting in front of a classroom in a couple of years’ time? We want quality.”
Source: Wanganui Chronicle