Primary teachers and principals have rejected the Government’s latest offers of settlement, saying it does not address the teacher shortage that is at “crisis point”.

The secret online ballot for New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa members for a revised offer by the Ministry of Education closed on Tuesday night.

Teachers voted on the offer by an electronic ballot run by Elections NZ between September 18 and 25.

The offer for teachers included a three-year term from date of settlement, an increase in the base salary scale by 3 per sent each year for three years, no provisions for reducing workloads and class sizes and not committed funding for supporting children with additional learning needs.

NZEI members had sent a clear message that the offers did not address concerns about the growing teacher shortage, time to teach and support for children with additional learning needs, said NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart.

“The Government keeps saying we have to be patient, and they can’t fix everything at once, but the teacher shortage is at crisis point.

“If you think it’s expensive trying to fix a crisis, just wait to see how hard it is to turn around a disaster.”

In the meantime, students’ learning suffered when teachers couldn’t find relievers to cover for sick teachers, Stuart said.

“Now we have the ballot result, the next step is in members’ hands. They are discussing this online and in conversations in their workplaces.”

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said she was “disappointed” teachers chose to reject the latest offer.

She said she is “slightly surprised” by the decision.

It’s a larger offer than all three offers put together that were accepted by the NZEI under the previous Government.

When asked what is next, she said: “I Hope NZEI and the ministry of education will get back to the table and work constructively together to try and come to an arrangement.”

She was not prepared to say if the Government was willing to offer even more money in any potential future talks.

At the NZEI Te Riu Road annual conference in October representatives would consider feedback about potential collective action and would make a recommendation for plans for term 4.

The revised offer for principals included a three-year term date of settlement, increase base salary scale by 3 per cent each year from date of settlement for principals with more than 100 students at their schools.

Also an increase base salary scale by 4.5 per cent, plus 4.5 per cent plus 4.4 per cent a year from the date of settlement for principals of schools with fewer than 100 students as well as no provisions to address workload.

Ministry of Education head Iona Holsted said the Ministry was disappointed NZEI rejected their advised offers to settle collective agreements.

“The Executive of the NZEI has announced that members have voted to reject the Ministry’s offers to settle,” Holsted said.

“It is also disappointing because outside the bargaining process, the Ministry is actively addressing the concerns teachers are raising about their working conditions.

“Primary teacher retention rates remain high at over 90 per cent. We are also working with teachers on planning for a long-term education workforce strategy to better meet the needs of schools.”

She said Budget 2018 includes a $20m increase of teacher supply over four years, $370m for new teacher places by 2021 to meet population growth and $59m for teacher aids.

“Budget 18 provided an extra $270 million for learning support and last Friday Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin released a Disability and Learning Support Action Plan for consultation.

“The Ministry is monitoring demand and supply and will consider new initiatives if required.

“This includes removing National Standards because teachers have said for a long time it significantly contributed to their workload,” Holsted said.

A survey by the NZEI has found that 30 per cent of primary school principals said there were no suitable applicants for the jobs they need to fill.

More than half, 52 per cent, said they did not have all the teachers they need this term, and 28 per cent have had to increase class sizes this term because they can’t find enough teachers.

Ninety per cent of principals said they struggled to find relievers when teachers were sick.

National education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye said Education Minister Chris Hipkins should ensure that the Ministry of Education “gets back to the table to try and resolve these issues”.

“The Government needs to step up and prioritise education funding,” she said.

“There have been issues around not putting on the table reducing class sizes, not getting commitments around special needs coordinators, and on the maternity grant issue the Government has been unduly harsh on what it has put on the table.

“It’s for ministers to ensure that the ministry gets back to the table to try and resolve these issues so we don’t have multiple strikes in the offing.”

Source: NZ Herald

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