I’ve been a teacher for 38 years. I chose this profession because I truly believe in the right to a quality public education. My life is spent doing my best to deliver that to our students.

I am striking tomorrow. I’ll be marching with my colleagues and I’ll be marching not just  for myself, but for my whole profession – and for our children.

The government‘s latest offer does not address our concerns and shockingly does not maintain pay parity with teachers in other sectors, something we fought so hard for.

I’m striking for the same reason my colleagues are. We are thinking about the future of the education sector. We are afraid for the future of the teaching profession and we feel we must fight for our country’s children.

We need a first class education system in New Zealand because our children deserve it. They deserve teachers who aren’t exhausted and on the edge of burn out.

The teachers they have are so passionate, but they’re tired too. As teachers we aren’t asking for much – we know what children need because we are with them all day.

It’s not hard – anyone who spends time in a classroom can see it. We need smaller class sizes, more time to plan for lessons, and crucially, we need to keep the teachers we have and ensure they feel valued. We know that doesn’t come cheap, but when we fail our children, as a society, the costs to the future are enormous.

Teaching is no longer considered a sustainable and attractive profession for young Kiwi graduates to enter. I want us to return to where we once were.

The great shock of the last round of negotiations in Term 1 wasn’t just that the offer hadn’t improved in the face of an obvious teacher shortage – it was that we won pay parity in the 1990s and now we face losing it again. You may have heard teachers say: A teacher is a teacher is a teacher. It’s true. We all require the same level of qualifications and ongoing professional development. We are all performing multiple roles, like counsellor, support worker, peace maker.

If we don’t maintain pay parity, then we will lose even more teachers and have even fewer people wanting to become teachers.

We want the government to invest in teachers here and now. We need overseas teachers to help meet the shortage in the short term and we acknowledge they bring valuable skills and perspectives, but they also need ongoing support from New Zealand trained teachers.  Overseas recruitment is a band aid for a much deeper wound. Without more investment in our current teachers, our children will bear the brunt of a system which cannot cope under the strain of being so under-funded. As primary teachers and principals we are being crushed under the weight of enormous workloads and responsibilities, without any additional time or staffing. It is crucial we turn this around.

Thankfully, it’s not hard to fix this looming crisis. We just need the government to prioritise education.  There need to be short term and long term plans.

We want to see a new teacher staffing and resourcing entitlement for all schools so that they can employ and train a Special education needs coordinator. We believe every school should have a qualified SENCO to protect and support children with additional needs.

We want to see more resource teacher positions nationwide, to better reflect student need. And we want to reduce the teacher to student ratio.

We have asked for more teacher resourcing for each class to give classroom teachers time to complete professional responsibilities, like assessments, that are difficult to do when you’re responsible for a class.

There aren’t enough resources available for supporting children with additional learning needs – we need to address that.

And right now, the only way we can address it  is to get the Government to listen to us. That’s why we are striking. We are striking because this can’t go on any longer.

We can afford to ensure every child receives the education they need to succeed in life. We can afford to ensure every educator is trusted and resourced to make that a reality.

What we can’t afford is to allow our education system to fail our children.

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