Strike action highlights reo teacher shortage

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Primary school teachers will take rolling strike action across the country for one week starting November 12. 

New Zealand Education Institute -Te Riu Roa (NZEI) president Lynda Stuart says schools are at a crisis with teacher shortages and retention, particularly reo Māori teachers in both kaupapa Māori and mainstream schools.

"We've got a real lack of those teachers who have got fluency in te reo, who have the ability and knowledge around tikanga, and we really need those people in our classrooms and in our schools," says Stuart.

NZEI principal and primary members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the rolling strikes following a second offer from the ministry in late September in response to national strike action earlier in August.

NZEI principals' lead negotiator Louise Green says the unprecedented level of industrial action by primary teachers and principals shows the severity of the crisis in schools.

"We're at crisis point for recruiting and retaining teachers in this country.  I've had principal colleagues in tears with the stress of trying to ensure a teacher in every classroom.  Meanwhile the huge workload and lack of resources for children with additional learning needs is driving teachers out of the profession," she says.

Teachers' lead negotiator Liam Rutherford says teachers and principals do not want to inconvenience their students and school communities- or lose a day's pay.

"However, we all know what is at stake and the importance of standing our ground on fixing the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.  Our students deserve better, and this government can do better- their $5.5 billion surplus confirms it," he says.

NZEI and the Secretary for Education have committed to seeking an agreed settlement before November, before strikes commence.

Rolling strike dates

Wider Auckland region - Monday 12, November.

North Island (except Auckland and Wellington) - Tuesday, 13 November.

Wider Christchurch region (including Ellesmere, Ashley, Mid-Canterbury, Malvern, Hurunui and Aronui Tomua Waitaha) - Wednesday, 14 November.

South Island (except wider Christchurch) - Thursday, 15 November.

Wider Wellington region - Friday, 16 November.

Teachers and principals are asking for:

  • Smaller classes, so children can get more one-on-one attention.
  • More resources and staffing to adequately support children with additional learning needs.
  • A significant increase in teachers’ salaries so that they are properly valued, and as a country New Zealand can recruit and retain teachers. (16% over two years. The latest offer was 3% a year over three years).