By: Diane Crate

It is with some sadness that I read and listened to media reports about the latest offer presented to teachers. Much of the reporting is, in my view, skewed to sound much better than the reality. Comments like “most teachers will receive a $10,000 salary increase” are very misleading.

For example, a teacher who is joining the profession after spending four years at university will receive an increase of around $19 per week from this offer straight away.

A teacher who has been teaching for over 10 years and has a full degree will receive around $27 a week extra from this offer straight away.

Secondary school teachers currently receive 10 days a term release. This enables them to prepare lessons, work with parents, mark assessments and participate in professional learning. Primary school teachers receive two days a term. In the last offer primary teachers were offered a very small increase of 12 minutes a week extra release. In the new offer this pitiful increase has been removed completely.

The addition of 600 extra “learning support” staff is great, but there is very little information about what this might look like in reality. Education minister Chris Hipkins himself told me that crucial details like whether these people would be employed by schools or the ministry have yet to be decided. We have no idea if we will be able to use these roles directly in our schools as part of our staff, or if they will work across a number of schools. It seems to have been announced quickly to garner favour, but with no specific details. The minister says he needs time to find and train these people, but we already have SENCO (special education needs co-ordinator) staff in our schools who are connected to our whānau, tamariki and other staff – and we urgently need funding to support them. Principals and boards of trustees are using their operating grants and teacher staffing budgets to support SENCO roles, while the minister takes a another whole year to come up with a plan.

This seems not unlike the announcement of pay rises for support staff which was heralded as a “historic pay rise”. This in fact only related to around 300 “support workers” and totally excluded the literally thousands of teacher aides who earn only a fraction over minimum wage.

Comments like “the police accepted the same offer of 3%” are also very disappointing. I don’t want to compare roles, but police officers are paid while they train; teachers often start their careers with massive student loans from four years of full time university study. The starting wage for a police officer is currently over $56,000 – plus allowances and overtime. The current starting salary for a teacher is $47,980 with no overtime rates or standard allowances. While I absolutely value and appreciate our police force – and they earn every penny – it is not fair to suggest that because police accepted 3% so should teachers.

Today I have a teacher working the full day at school putting on a cooking show. I have another teacher spending the whole weekend in Wellington taking students to a sporting challenge. I have teachers replying to messages from their personal cell phones, arranging meetings after hours, and spending their evenings at discos, meetings and cultural events. I have teachers arriving at school at 6am to meet students for events. The list goes on and on. So reports of ‘9am to 3pm with 12 weeks holiday’ are simply ridiculous. My teachers work huge hours and give up time with their own families. From all the emails and documents I receive from my staff well into the evenings and weekends, I know that they continue to work long hours at home.

We cannot expect everything straight away, but please believe me when I say this is not about greed for a bigger pay rise. The conditions around classroom release and extra support for students have been ignored completely. In fact we have less release in this offer than in the last. We have students in our classes TODAY that deserve a better deal – they are not arriving in 2020.

I totally understand that the strike is a hassle for our community; we would much rather be at work too. My teachers cannot afford to lose another day’s pay – and know you can’t either! But we are simply at a loss about how else to be heard.

We will spend our strike day out in the community trying to be heard. Please support us.

Diane Crate is principal of Feilding Intermediate School.

This message to parents from Feilding Intermediate School principal Diane Crate, was first published on the school’s Facebook page and then The Spinoff. It has been republished here with Diane’s permission.

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