More than 120,000 students will be asked to stay at home for a day this week after the teachers' union rejected what the Ministry of Education describes as an "excellent" pay offer.

The teachers are starting rolling strikes which will mean parents will have to make arrangements for their children on no-teacher days from tomorrow - and for a few more weeks to come.

School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr believes most parents will cope with the strikes if they are short - but warned that goodwill would not last.

"We do know any longer than a couple of days and parents get grumpy," she said last night.

Time would tell how parents would react to the strikes and having children out of school. "Most parents will cope with a couple of days ... But yeah, test it and then we'll see because a lot of parents today work."

Ms Kerr said it was not good for students, parents and teachers if the strike action went beyond a couple of days.

The ministry and the Post Primary Teachers Association, which have been negotiating unsuccessfully since May, went back to the bargaining table last week after the PPTA said it had been assured the ministry had an offer worth the teachers' while.

The PPTA was presented with a new offer on Friday afternoon but rejected it yesterday, saying it showed a "disturbing indication of the level of value the Government attached to teaching and learning in secondary schools".

As a result, strikes would resume this week, with 59,500 year 9 students being told to stay at home tomorrow and 63,000 year 11 students doing the same on Thursday.

Continuing strikes affecting years 9 and 10 are planned for the rest of the year.

Senior students will not be sent home because of the importance of them attending classes in the final term before examinations.

Secondary School Principals Association president Patrick Walsh said today the industrial action could not have come at a worse time for students.

"Year 11s are going to be sent home this week, it's only three weeks out from their external NCEA exams and it's one day that they could ill-afford to miss," he told Radio New Zealand

"We accept that it's a recession and the offer made by the Government has to be reasonable in that context but it also has to solve some of the major recruitment and retention problems that we do have," he said.

Thousands of teachers went on strike last month after negotiations reached a stalemate. Teachers want improved conditions and a 4 per cent pay rise.

The ministry has offered a one-off $1000 payment, a 0.5 per cent increase to base salary rates and a further 1.9 per cent increase next year.

The Ministry of Education said yesterday it was extremely disappointed by the PPTA's rejection of its "excellent" offer.

Education Workforce Group Manager Fiona McTavish said the new offer meant more money for all secondary teachers and a significant increase in the number of middle management allowances, and sought ways to work with the PPTA on issues such as class size and health and safety.

"To have our offer rejected, and be advised that the PPTA plans further one-day strikes, is extremely disappointing," she said.

Ms McTavish said the union was causing further disruption to students and families through strike action and was removing any opportunity to make further progress in bargaining.

"The PPTA's expectations are not realistic, and their behaviour is not justified," she said.

But PPTA president Kate Gainsford said the latest offer equated to a smaller increase in salary rates than the government's initial offer in June.

"There has been no substantial shift between this offer and the last one received by PPTA, which was rejected by members at an overwhelming 99 per cent."

Ms Gainsford said the PPTA executive felt the new offer did not go far enough towards meeting the claims of the members, and an official notice to this effect had been sent to the Secretary of Education and Boards of Trustees.

Prime Minister John Key said he was disappointed at the breakdown, saying: "It was a good offer and they should have accepted it."

He said that when the annual adjustment was added, the offer amounted to about a 5 per cent pay rise, which was more than the Government had offered others, including nurses and police officers.

"We're asking all New Zealanders to accept that the Government has less money to play with at the moment, and we believe the offer we put on the table was a very fair one."

*Year 9 students will be told to stay at home tomorrow.

*Year 11 students on Thursday.

*Year 10 students next Wednesday (Oct 27).

*After that Year 9 and 10 students will rotate for a day each week.

*If your child is 14 or older they are legally allowed to stay at home alone. Just make sure the television and computer are working and the fridge is stocked.

*If they are 13 - or older and you don't want them home alone - arrange for them to go to a friend's house where at least one parent is at home.

*Arrange a nanny through an agency, although this will be costly.

*If both parents work, let one take the morning off and the other the afternoon.

*Take a day's leave. If the weather is good, your child can help you in the garden.

*A one-off $1000 payment to secondary teachers

*A 0.5 per cent increase to base salary rates

*A further 1.9 per cent increase to base salary rates from September 2011

*3000 additional middle management allowances worth $1000 each

Teachers want:
*Maximum of 30 students per class and 24 in classes with hazards, such as science and workshop lessons

*Professional on-the-job learning for teachers to keep them up to date with new developments and ways to do things better

*Time to do the job - an increase in management units in recognition of the considerable increasing workload in schools because of NCEA

*Preparation time for part time teachers

*A 4 per cent base scale increase for one year

- Derek Cheng