Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Educators unite for fight over class sizes

Unions from all school levels will join forces to respond to government changes which would result in teacher cuts and larger class sizes. Photo / Thinkstock
Unions from all school levels will join forces to respond to government changes which would result in teacher cuts and larger class sizes. Photo / Thinkstock

An unprecedented gathering of education unions and organisations will this afternoon meet to form a new plan of attack on the Government's controversial education reforms.

Unions from all school levels will join forces with three principals' associations and the School Trustees Association in Wellington to respond to government changes which would result in teacher cuts and larger class sizes.

New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) spokesman Ian Leckie said he retained some optimism of a government reversal because the Budget changes had stirred incredible opposition from schools and communities.

"Everywhere we go, I haven't heard anybody say it was a good idea."

National's coalition partners United Future and the Maori Party have added their voices to those concerned about the impact of the Budget on schools.

Education Ministry chief Lesley Longstone said on Friday that she had offered to attend the meeting to discuss the changes.

The ministry was standing by the advice it gave to Education Minister Hekia Parata on changing class-size ratios and reducing teacher numbers.

But Mr Leckie, who has organised the gathering, said he had not been approached by Mrs Longstone.

"We understand that her position hasn't changed, so on the basis of that there's little she can offer the group anyway."

The meeting would be a chance for teachers to properly grasp how the changes would affect primary, intermediate and secondary schools.

Mr Leckie pointed out that the Budget had frozen staffing in schools for the next four years.

"More kids, same number of teachers. You can make your own conclusions that that's also going to increase class sizes."

He was unsure of what action the coalition of education groups would take, but unions were considering changes to teachers' contracts.

Collective agreements were being reviewed, and Mr Leckie said the union had proposed the inclusion of class sizes in their contracts.

Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling spokesman Gary Sweeney said he wanted a moratorium on class sizes until the Government had engaged with teachers on the issue.

Ms Parata will not be attending the meeting.

Last week, she was forced into a partial backdown on the funding changes after it was found that some intermediate schools faced losing up to seven teachers.

- NZ Herald

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