Teachers' unions always insist they are professional bodies serving the interests of education, not just their members.
How disappointing, therefore, to discover the Post Primary Teachers' Association's secondary principals' council has suggested schools limit the number of pupils admitted to their new "trades academies" so as not to put staffing positions at risk.
Trades academies — technical courses, as they were — have been reintroduced to schools for 15- and 16-year-old students who do not want to take academic subjects much further and can get NCEA credits in subjects of more use to their employment prospects.
The courses are funded from an account for all industry training providers and the funding of schools is reduced accordingly.
The PPTA principals have warned schools that "depending on how many you enrol (in trades academies), the changes would also be likely to reduce the number of salary units, middle management and possibly the number of senior management allowances the school would receive".
Their concern is understandable to a degree. It seem fair that salary units would be reduced since the technical classes are being funded from another source, but with the total number of pupils in the school remaining the same, management positions should not be reduced. A professional response, though, would not make the pupils suffer.
Unfortunately, that is what will happen if principals follow the advice of the PPTA to cap admissions to trades academies. One of them in our story today admits, "It doesn't make me feel very good at all." Yet she is following the advice, reducing opportunities for students in her school.
Trades education was restored to secondary schools in 2011 for good reason. The economy was coming out of recession, skill shortages seen in the previous boom were bound to return.
Pupils keen to get employment qualifications as quickly as possible could start to learn a trade that gave them good prospects of a job.
The Canterbury earthquakes that year boosted demand in the building trades beyond previous expectations. Yet four years on we find the country has 22 trades academies in secondary schools. Surely there should be more.
If the implication for general staffing and management positions is the reason more schools have not taken it up, it is a disgrace.
The profession claims to put pupils first. Its argument is with the Government. It should not be closing the door on any pupils who want to start learning an employable skill before they leave.