Hope - that's the word two Northland principals used to describe how 2018 started.

There was a new Government, a new Education Minister and National Standards -controversial benchmarks for student achievement in reading, writing and maths introduced in 2010 - had been abolished.

As the year went on teachers made noise about a range of issues - workload, the teacher shortage, child restraint rules, poor pay - and strike action was taken twice as education union NZEI and the Ministry of Education failed to reach an agreement.

Kaitaia Primary School principal Brendon Morrissey said workload was a huge issue for teachers. Photo / Supplied
Kaitaia Primary School principal Brendon Morrissey said workload was a huge issue for teachers. Photo / Supplied

Kaitaia Primary School principal Brendon Morrissey said reflecting on last year, the biggest issue affecting his school was workload.

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"We're talking about all the things you have to do in order to take enough care of every child we've got, so they are in a comfortable place where they can learn.

"That's feeding, that's clothing, that's comforting, that's making sure they're safe. All of that you have to try and do before you can even try and teach kids.

"A lot of what we do in schools today, historically that was the families' jobs. We understand that, but we're not going to stop doing all this extra mahi, because our philosophy is: How is any of this the kids' fault?"

Hora Hora Primary School principal Pat Newman said he started 2018 with hope. Photo / Tania Whyte
Hora Hora Primary School principal Pat Newman said he started 2018 with hope. Photo / Tania Whyte

Hora Hora Primary School principal Pat Newman, who is also president of the Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association, was vocal in 2018.

He spoke out about the child restraint rules, which he called 'PC gone mad', and the lack of support for children with severe psychological issues.

He said he started 2018 full of hope.

"We were absolutely over the moon that national standards - the worst thing possible for education - had gone. We were over the moon that we were starting to look at the really important things about how kids learn, again. And then as the year went on things started to get tougher.

"There's no doubt that Labour had done some really great things to start it off with but then it seemed to stop. The very, very high-needs mental health issues for our kids up here, nothing has happened for them."

The Government started the year investing an extra $1.6 billion into the education sector in Budget 2018, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced a package to address the teacher shortage, a bill to end partnership schools was introduced, meaning Whangārei's Te Kāpehu Whetū will open next year as a designated character school, and a review into Tomorrow's Schools was launched.

A spokeswoman for Hipkins said the Government was committed to investing in education, but it couldn't do it all at once.

"We have to balance the needs of schools and the money that goes into education with fixing the housing crisis, lifting children and families out of poverty and fixing the mental health crisis," she said.

Meanwhile, throughout 2018 NZEI were in negotiations with the Ministry of Education over pay and working conditions. The rejection of the first two offers led to strike action and the current offer, a package worth $698 million, has also been rejected.

Morrissey said he started 2018 hoping "the Government of the day could right a lot of educational wrongs" and still had hope.

"There's still a lot of work to do but we've actually had a Government, and by extension a Ministry of Education, who after nine years of making things harder for us are our best ally."