Teachers on maternity leave are bringing their babies to class while they work at one Rotorua school struggling with a chronic reliever shortage.

A lack of relief teachers was just one of the classroom resourcing issues reported by three local primary school principals preparing for a second teacher strike.

Primary school teachers around New Zealand have voted to walk off the job in a series of rolling strikes beginning the week of November 12.

The industrial action follows a national strike on August 15 and New Zealand Education Institute members' rejection of a second offer by the Ministry in late September.


Rotorua principals emphasised the ongoing negotiations were less about pay and more about additional resources and attracting people to the teaching profession.

Eden Chapman, from Horohoro School, said he'd had so much trouble finding relief teachers he'd had to bring in people on maternity leave.

Eden Chapman, principal of Horohoro School. File photo / Stephen Parker
Eden Chapman, principal of Horohoro School. File photo / Stephen Parker

"Finding relievers is next to impossible - I've even used my wife [a teacher] with the baby strapped to her because there was no one else available."

He'd done the same with another reliever. It was far from ideal but with the right baby it could work well, he said, and bring out students' natural nurturing instincts.

"It's better to have a high-quality teacher in the room with a baby than someone who isn't up to the job causing chaos."

He was optimistic union negotiators and the Ministry of Education could come to an agreement and avert the strike.

If it came to it, he believed parents - even those who could "only dream about the incomes some teachers and principals have" - would understand they were fighting for resources for their children.

Westbrook School principal Colin Watkins said he believed most teachers would happily accept a "very, very small" pay increase if the Government would agree to provide "adequate" resources for children with significant learning needs.


These included new immigrants with little to no English - "we are required to teach them to function in an English speaking world with no additional support" - to those with diagnosed disorders and others with behavioural issues stemming from their mothers' drug and alcohol abuses.

Watkins said the need was so great his school's board had agreed to pull money from other areas to up his teacher aid budget by $30,000 next year, in spite of no increase in government operational funding.

"It's robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Parents had joined teachers in a main-street march during the last strike, and while some had been inconvenienced he believed they did not blame teachers for it.

"I don't think that will change this time."

Nicky Brell, of Malfroy School, said attracting quality people to teaching was vital to the future of the profession, and schools.

"This is a worthy profession and we should look after it."

In a statement, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said there was still a lot of water to go under the bridge before the proposed industrial action was due to take place.

"The Government is pleased the Ministry of Education and the NZEI are urgently seeking facilitation under the Employment Relations Act. This will advance the process to help reach settlements with primary principals and teachers."