Workload is the biggest problem
It was workload, workload and workload issues which were forcing primary teachers to take rolling strike action around New Zealand all last week according to teachers who met in Dannevirke.
A meeting of over 80 local teachers at The Hub on Tuesday in Dannevirke went on far longer than was expected as teachers vented their frustrations about the current crisis they say is facing their profession.
Chaired by Paul Nees, NZEI principal support officer for the southern half of the North Island, they debated the issues before voting on the latest government offer.
Then they marched, seeking and receiving strong local and motorist support.
The teachers say there are many issues, but there are five major concerns:
■ Teacher shortages leading to oversized classes.
■ A lack of funding for support staff to help cope with increasing numbers of children experiencing learning and behavioural difficulties.
■ Increasing expectations from government to carry out the paperwork.
■ Minimal relief time for teachers to carry out preparation and assessment.
■ Underfunding of resources for classrooms.
The teachers say these are leading to serious burnout issues and teachers leaving the profession or dropping to parttime, while recruitment for new teachers is so low universities are closing some of their courses.
‘We are not just teachers. We are social workers, nurses, therapists, providers of food ’ and resources. TARARUA TEACHER
Pay grabs the headlines but apart from attracting new teachers into the profession they say it is not as important to teachers as reducing the workload and consequent stress levels.
“We are passionate about teaching your children, but the government is not making it easy for us,” said one teacher.
Paul Nees says rural schools are the worst hit and being a principal in a small rural school is the toughest job in education.
He said teacher and support staff recruitment is hard, time provision is very limited and funding inadequate.
He said the current government offer and previous announcements for additional funding are “just a drop in the ocean”.
For one teacher there was frustration at having to take strike action when she is so busy at school.
“But we are at a turning point in education,” she said, “and we must act now.”
A group of Tararua teachers summarised their concerns.
“We are not just teachers, we are social workers, nurses, therapists, providers of food and resources.
“We are too busy to do our teaching job effectively.”
Tararua primary teachers may appear happy marching Dannevirke’s High Street on Tuesday but they were far from it at their NZEI meeting in The Hub just before it.