Lacey Owen says she has a newfound appreciation for teachers since her daughter started school.

The Whangārei mother of three didn't really know why primary school teachers and principals took strike action twice last year - she didn't have any kids attending primary school at the time of the first strike.

But in term 3 last year her daughter Calais started at Kaurihohore School and when it was announced earlier this month that primary school and secondary school teachers and principals had voted to strike together, the principal of the school Leslee Allen put a post on the school's Facebook page.

Owen said it was then she realised the strike was about more than just pay.


"It was incredible what's actually needed and how much our education system is in crisis. I realised our teachers are at breaking point."

Tomorrow more than 2000 teachers in Northland, and almost 50,000 nationally, will strike 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.

They will be joined by area schools, who have their own collective agreement and also voted to strike last week.

Owen took to Facebook - a platform both she and Allen said had been filled with comments from people who opposed the strike - to show her support.

Very soon you’ll be striking. Striking for MORE. More teachers. More support staff. More money. More resources....

Posted by Laced with Love on Friday, 24 May 2019

That post has had more than 790 likes and has been shared more than 370 times.

In it Owen thanked teachers and spoke about the changes she had noticed in Calais since she started school.

"Her confidence is through the roof, and her reading especially, and her maths - everything. You can't put a price on it, she's a whole new girl.

"I find reading a book with her at home can be quite frustrating and I think oh my gosh the patience the teachers have is incredible and I couldn't do that job."


Allen has been principal of Kaurihohore School for 12 years.

Some of the major changes she's noticed include the increasing number of children requiring a lot of support; the high expectations of the profession; and rising levels of anxiety in children and in parents.

"You've got children coming in with learning differences we know nothing about yet. P babies, all of that.

"We love our jobs and we wouldn't be here if we didn't. But it's exhausting," she said.

Allen said she voted to strike because she didn't know what else to do.

"We lose pay everytime we strike so it's not like we're choosing to do it. A lot of us live week to week."

Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Ministry of Education deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement, said striking did not offer a solution.

"Instead it will cause disruption to the learning of many thousands of children and young people, as well as causing significant inconvenience for families and employers," she said.

Allen said at Kaurihohore School they didn't even have teacher-only days. They were striking because they firmly believed in what they were doing.

"We wouldn't choose to do so otherwise. I hate disrupting parents," she said.

Graham Sharp, head of physical education at Okaihau College, has been teaching for 20 years - 11 in New Zealand and six at Okaihau College.

He said one of the biggest issues faced by secondary schools was a skills shortage.

"It's a crisis. We can't recruit teachers to the profession with low wages," he said.

Sharp said that needed to change so teachers didn't end up in front of classes without the necessary qualifications.

Meanwhile, Tauraroa Area School principal Grant Burns said while he sensed the frustration of parents who may have difficulty finding childcare tomorrow, he was supportive of strike action.

"It's been looming for a long time. Pressure on salaries and workload are very real, with recruitment and retention of quality teachers becoming more difficult.

"Many area schools are in remote areas where accommodation is hard to find or teachers don't want to live," he said.

Primary school teachers and principals striking last year. Photo / Tania Whyte
Primary school teachers and principals striking last year. Photo / Tania Whyte

What parents need to know

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

• 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.

• At 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.

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

A timeline of events

April 2018:

- Primary principals' negotiations begin

May 2018:

- Primary teachers' negotiations begin

- Primary Principals' Collective Agreement expires

- The first offers for settlement of the principals' and teachers' collective agreements are received from the Ministry of Education (May & June)

June 2018:

- Primary Teachers' Collective Agreement expires

- Paid union meetings are held across the country for primary teachers and principals to vote on the offers received from the Ministry and to vote on potential strike action.

- Primary principals and teachers vote to strike for thre hours

July 2018:

- A ballot to extend the strike: NZEI Members vote via an online ballot for strike action to be extended to a full day

August 2018:

- Primary teachers and principals hold full-day strike action

- NZEI negotiations with the Ministry continue

- PPTA negotiating team began discussions with the Ministry regarding the Secondary Teachers Collective Agreement.

September 2018:

- New offers from the Ministry for primary principals and teachers.

- Primary teachers and principals voted in an online ballot to reject the Ministry's new offers.

October 2018:

- Secret ballot on new strike action: NZEI members vote to undertake a week of rolling one-day strikes in the week of November 12

- PPTA Annual Conference: Secondary teachers reject Government's offer

- Secondary Teachers Collective Agreement expires

November 2018:

- After four days of facilitation, the Ministry made new offers to primary school teachers and principals.

- Primary teachers and principals hold a week of rolling one-day strikes.

- NZEI members reject the Ministry's new offers

- PPTA union meetings held, secondary teachers voted overwhelmingly to reject the government's offer.

- Ministry of Education present third offer to PPTA.

December 2018:

- The PPTA rejects a third offer from the Government.

February 2019:

- NZEI negotiations with the Ministry continue

- NZEI receives a new offers for primary teachers and principals

March 2019

- NZEI paid union meetings scheduled but postponed in the wake of the mass shootings in Christchurch. A decision is made to allow members to vote on the latest offers via electronic ballot instead.

- Offer 4 is presented to PPTA. Members vote this offer is not good enough to avert strike action

April 2019:

- Electronic ballot on new offers: Primary teachers and principals voted in an online ballot to reject the Ministry's new offers.

May 2019

- Paid union meetings are held across the country for teachers and principals to vote in a secret ballot on potential strike action. Principals and teachers vote in favour of joint strike action with the PPTA.

- Area school teachers vote to join their primary and secondary colleagues and strike on 29 May as well.