Thousands of primary and secondary school teachers in Northland are expected to take part in marches in Kaitaia and Whangārei as they fight for better pay and working conditions.

The strike on Wednesday comes after members of education unions NZEI Te Riu Roa - which represents primary school teachers and principals - and the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) - which represents secondary principals and teachers - voted in favour of taking joint strike action.

The Kaitaia march starts from 12pm at Jaycee Park and will head through town to the old Pak'nSave car park for a rally.

Meanwhile in Whangārei there will be picketing at schools and major intersections throughout town from 8.30am to 9.30am before teachers and supporters assemble at Mander Park from 11am onwards.

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From there they will march from 12pm through Central Ave, Water St, Bank St, Cameron St, Walton St, Dent St, Lower Dent St and will finish at Hihiaua Park and rally from 1pm to 1.30pm.

Rachel Burnett, an English teacher at Dargaville High School and PPTA chair for the lower Northland region, said teachers did not take strike action lightly and would rather be with kids in the classrooms.

"It is hugely disappointing that we have reached this point," she said.

The joint strike will see the largest ever industrial action by New Zealand teachers, covering almost 50,000 members nationally - more than 2200 in Northland - across the two unions, and last week area schools also voted to join the strike.

It comes after primary teachers and principals went on strike in August and November last year.

The Ministry of Education applied to the Employment Relations Authority for urgent talks over the teachers' pay claims after the strike was announced.

While the authority had granted a request from the ministry for "urgent facilitation" with the PPTA, planning for Wednesday's strike was still full steam ahead.

Meanwhile, Education Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said last week the ministry was still waiting to hear about its request for facilitated talks with NZEI.

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The ministry has offered both unions pay rises of 3 per cent a year for three years plus an extra step at the top of their pay scales which would bring the total pay rise to 12.6 per cent over three years for a majority of teachers.

But the unions are still demanding more non-contact time to cope with workloads which many teachers say are forcing them to work long hours.

What parents need to know

• NZEI said schools will advise parents and caregivers about whether the school is completely closed on May 29 or if there will be some limited supervision available for families unable to make alternative arrangements.

• Anyone can visit backtheteachers.co.nz to find out more information on why teachers are striking.