Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president and Hora Hora Primary School principal Pat Newman was gratified by displays of public support for striking teachers in Northland on Wednesday, and warned that if the government didn't listen, more strikes would be "a reality".
"Rolling strikes and other action can be very much expected — they can be guaranteed," he said. PPTA members are to begin five weeks of rolling strikes this week.
"I don't think I've seen the teaching profession so united, to be honest. And I first went to train in 1973."
Ōpua School teacher and NZEI Bay of Islands president Juliette Ridge spoke about a colleague's salary when she addressed the rally in Whangārei. A beginning teacher's salary was $47,980, she said. Her colleague, "after a lifetime of teaching," was earning $12,000 more than that.
"She works a 60-hour week regularly. She's basically earning just above the minimum wage. Is this fair?" she asked. The crowd responded with a loud 'No'. Mr Newman wasn't planning to back down.
"I just can't believe how our Minister has changed what he is saying now so much from pre-power days," he said. "I always thought I was a cynic… now I'm a total unbeliever. Our political masters over the years have done their utmost to destroy our profession, and have nearly succeeded. In my view, this is our Dunkirk, and we must stay together strongly."
Workloads and resourcing for high-needs children were the key issues for teachers in Kerikeri. Karen Fletcher, Riverview Primary, said she arrived at school at 6.30am each day and left around 5pm, but still didn't have time to do everything required. She also worked on Saturdays and spent many evenings writing reports, analysing data, meeting parents or helping with school productions.
Melanie Martin, a team leader at Kerikeri Primary School, said a lack of resourcing for children with learning needs was her main concern. The school was lucky to get five hours' support a week for children with learning needs and they still had to go on a waiting list.
Applying for extra help for children was complex, time consuming and onerous.
"You practically need a Master's just to do the application. If you have a child in this country with diverse needs, be prepared to battle for any support in the public school system," she said.