Teachers are turning up the heat on the Government today by refusing to teach Year 9 students, just two days before talks with Education Minister Chris Hipkins.
The Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) has gone ahead with the plan to send Year 9 students home today, as the first step in a month-long series of industrial actions, despite Hipkins' invitation to talks with both teacher unions this Thursday.
The plan is to refuse to teach Year 9 students today, Year 10 next Tuesday, Year 11 on June 25 and Year 12 on July 2.
A week of regional strikes is also planned in the week beginning June 17.
Hipkins has invited the PPTA and the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) to talks with him and Ministry of Education officials on Thursday to discuss the "many, varied and complex" issues being raised by the teachers.
"The Government is committed to taking action to address those concerns progressively over time. These talks, set down for Thursday, June 6, will focus on how we can do this," he said.
PPTA Principals' Council chairman James Morris said he expected most Year 9 students to stay home today, but supervision would be provided for any students who turned up at schools.
He said his school, Darfield College in Canterbury, asked parents late last week to keep their Year 9 students at home if possible and asked them to reply by email. Only about 10 per cent said they would still send their Year 9 children to school.
He said the PPTA gave principals advance warning of the planned schedule of industrial actions two or three weeks ago, even though the dates were not announced officially until last Thursday, Budget day.
"Schools most likely would have been ready and likely would have warned parents," he said.
The selective action is unusual. Morris said it had not been taken since the 1990s, but he said the schools were prepared for it. Teachers would have their pay docked for every Year 9 class that they would have taught today.
"You just calculate the number of minutes that a particular teacher on a particular day was not teaching their class if they had a Year 9 class on that day, and just report that back [to the ministry]," he said.
Auckland Secondary Schools Principals' Association chairman Tom Webb confirmed that principals had advance notice of the action, although parents were advised only last Thursday.
"We have asked parents that they keep them at home," he said.
PPTA president Jack Boyle said Hipkins' invitation to meet, which the unions received on Friday, came too late to call off today's action after schools had already asked parents to keep their Year 9 students at home.
"Having already gone through that, we didn't have a lever to go back to schools to say hey look, don't worry about it.
"While it's welcome to have the minister invite PPTA and NZEI to a hui on Thursday, there are no guarantees, no certainty, around what will be discussed at the forum, so it would be a bit presumptuous to say, 'Oh look, the minister is wanting to talk to us, so that action we have said we are prepared to take, don't worry about it'."