"It is not about the money."
"We need more time to teach."
These are the rallying cries of hundreds of Tauranga primary and intermediate teachers who plan to walk off the job today.
Educators across the region are unimpressed by the Government's latest $700 million pay offer, saying they still want more action on workload and class sizes.
Fairhaven School teacher Trish Hunt said the key reason for the strike was to get the Government to address teacher workload and recognition.
Hunt had been teaching for 38 years and said she had felt depressed heading into a new school year knowing she had no extra learning support to care for the four children with additional learning needs, which included one Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funded pupil, that she would inherit next year.
"It is not about the money. It is about the conditions and more importantly, it is about our children," she said.
"Our children are our future and if we can't invest in them then we are going to be in big trouble in the next few years."
Hunt said schools did not have the resources for the children with higher learning needs and teachers did not have the time to deliver a full curriculum.
"Enough is enough. We want a fair deal," she said. "This is a crisis, not just a blip."
The New Zealand Educational Institute union wants to double the time allowed for teacher professional development outside the classroom from one hour to two hours each week - still well below the five hours a week that secondary teachers get.
It also wants to reduce class sizes in Years 4 to 8 by lowering the teacher/student ratio from 1:29 to 1:25.
An NZEI spokeswoman said there were 859 primary school principal and teacher members in Tauranga, 500 in Rotorua and 2147 across the wider Bay of Plenty.
NZEI Tauranga lobbyist and Tauranga Special School assistant principal Andrea Andresen said there were three core elements to Tuesday's strike - salaries, learning support and more time to teach.
Andresen said while some of the issues had been addressed in the previous offers, the theme among teachers was that the workload was what was driving them out of teaching.
"We need more time to be able to teach," she said.
Tauranga Special School principal Barrie Wickens said groups would be picketing at four rally hot spots across the city, while others would use the strike day to do community work including cleaning up local estuaries.
Wickens said teachers had rejected the new offer because it was "too little, too late".
"It is not addressing the major issues, including workload, more staffing, wellbeing, classroom sizes, etc," he said.
"It is about negotiating here and now for the next two to three years," he said. "It is setting the scene for the next 15 to 20 years."
He said the pay structures reflected the same as those offered to nurses and police.
"Each sector has different workloads and issues... We are not police and we are not nurses."
Fairhaven School principal Paul Hunt said while the new offer included pay increases, the real issue was attracting more teachers to the profession.
"The number of people training in education had dropped and the number of people leaving has risen," he said.
Hunt said experienced teachers were getting closer to retirement and heading towards "burnout".
Parents of thousands of children across the Bay of Plenty have had to find alternate childcare arrangements for the strike day.
Bayfair solo mum of two Rewa Martin said her mother had taken a day off work to babysit so she would not have to take a day off work or pay someone to look after them.
In spite of the inconvenience she, like many parents, supported the teachers' action.
"I do agree with teachers going on strike as I have a child that is a little bit special and needs extra support in the classroom."
Ministry of Education secretary for education Iona Holsted urged teachers to accept the Ministry's $698m offer, or negotiate within it.
"It means that most teachers would get between $9500 and $11,000 extra annually in their pay packets by 2020. The offer also provides for additional progression on the pay scale."
She said it was a $129m increase from the previous offer. The way the money was spent could be changed but the total amount would not increase, she said.
Holsted said the offer included the $217m for 600 new learning support coordinator roles in 2020 and said the Ministry expected NZEI would have waited to properly consider the new pay offer before going ahead with the strikes.
Additional reporting: NZME, Samantha Motion
Four rally points:
- Bethlehem Baptist church, follow up activity picket Moffat Rd roundabout, Bethlehem 10.30am to 11.30am.
- Curate, Christopher St, follow up activity: Clean up /picket Takitimu Dr, 10.30am.
- Curate, Mount Maunganui, follow up activity: picket near New World, some people delivering cards to Clayton Mitchell's office
- Orchard Church, Te Puke, community service
Key elements of the new offer:
- 3 per cent per year over a three-year term (unchanged)
- No increase in classroom release time (unchanged)
- Lifting the maximum salary for teachers who trained before degrees became required for teaching by four steps on the pay scale, lifting pay for long-serving staff by 39 per cent, from $59,621 to $82,992, by 2020
- Creating an extra step at the top of the salary scale from 2020, lifting the top of the basic scale by 12.6 per cent, from $75,949 to $85,481, by 2020. About a third of teachers are on the top step and would get this increase
- An immediate one-off $500 payment to all NZEI primary and intermediate teachers.
What about workload?
- A $40 million investment to increase teacher supply
- Working with the sector to develop an Education Workforce strategy
- Reviewing how we think about the curriculum and understanding progress children make at different stages and achievement with the sector
- Removing National Standards
- A joint task force has been set up to identify the compliance-related administrative tasks that can be reduced or eliminated to free up time for principals and teachers
- An Education Professional's Wellbeing Framework has been endorsed and a plan for implementation is being developed
- Reviewing how teachers assess learning, which teachers have told us also impacts on workload and their ability focus on teaching.
Source: Ministry of Education