Primary school teachers have accepted a $1.5 billion pay offer - but principals have rejected it because it would pay some teachers more than their principals.

The vote by just over 2000 primary school principals, confirmed by a source just before an official announcement due at 10am, will force the Government back to the negotiating table less than two weeks after it thought it had finally resolved a bitter dispute that has seen primary teachers strike three times in the past year.

The union representing both primary teachers and principals, the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI), is holding a principals' forum with leaders of the Principals' Federation this week to discuss their next options.

Meanwhile secondary teachers are due to finish voting on Friday at meetings around the country on whether to accept essentially the same offer that primary teachers have endorsed.

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Secondary principals are only in the early stages of negotiating their own deal, and one reason primary principals have rejected the deal they were offered is because they have no guarantees of retaining pay parity with secondary principals until the secondary principals secure their own deal.

The primary teachers' deal will lift the top of their basic scale, for teachers with no extra responsibilities, by 18.5 per cent from $75,949 now to $90,000 by July 2021.

Beginning teachers with a degree plus a teaching qualification will get a 12.8 per cent rise from $49,588 to $55,948.

Primary teachers have gone on strike three times in the past year, culminating in a joint strike with secondary teachers on May 29 (above). Photo / Brett Phibbs
Primary teachers have gone on strike three times in the past year, culminating in a joint strike with secondary teachers on May 29 (above). Photo / Brett Phibbs

But the proposed increases for most primary principals are smaller proportionately, ranging from 13.6 per cent for the smallest schools down to just 9.1 per cent for the largest schools.

The lowest-paid principal of the smallest school with under 50 students, graded "U1", will still get at least $95,296 by 2021, still slightly above the top of the basic pay scale.

But extra payments for additional responsibilities will lift some teachers' pay rates to levels that will be almost as much, or possibly more than, what their principals earn.

The Bay of Plenty Times reported that one principal was in tears after the deal was announced.

"At the moment my deputy principal is earning more than me, thousands more. With the latest offer that escalates that even more," the principal said.

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"It is not their fault. They are worth every single dollar and more.

"But it has got me thinking I could leave my job and walk into a deputy role and be paid more than I am with less of the responsibility."

"I didn't come into teaching to be rich. But there comes a time when you have to feel appreciated and right now I feel undervalued and deflated."

"It is the system that is flawed."

NZ Principals' Federation (NZPF) president Whetu Cormick told his members in a newsletter on Friday that he had received several concerned emails from members about the proposed deal.

"NZPF has publicly recognised that alongside principals' wellbeing, support and workloads, pay is another factor that impacts on the status of the profession," he wrote.

"Whilst NZPF is not the organisation involved in pay negotiations, yesterday [June 20] the NZPF executive met with NZEI President Lynda Stuart and National Secretary Paul Goulter.

"It was an open an honest conversation focused on the Government's latest pay offer to principals.

"Many of you have expressed your disappointment to NZPF that the latest offer is unchanged from the last and that U1-2 colleagues will be paid less than teachers at the top of the scale (with allowances).

"These concerns were shared with Lynda and Paul and the executive advocated strongly that along with pay, the issues of workload, wellbeing and the status of the profession must be addressed.

"In the course of the discussions, it was agreed that it would be helpful to carefully read the Accord, which is a part of the offer, so that you are fully informed before entering the voting process.

"An invitation has been extended by Lynda Stuart, NZEI President, to three NZPF national executive members, including myself, to join a Principals' Forum next week to further discuss options should the ballot result be to reject the current offer or to ratify the offer. In this way, NZEI is demonstrating a real willingness to work with a range of principals to determine the next steps."

Ministry of Education head Iona Holsted said she was disappointed that the primary principals had rejected "the substantial offer made to them".

"In rejecting the offer, over 1900 primary principals have walked away from an immediate $1500 payment and pay rises on 1 July of up to 13 per cent for over 500 principals," she said.

"These principals are in our smaller schools of fewer than 100 students. Principals in these schools would have moved to a minimum salary of $102,898 after three years - an extra $15,000.

She said:

• More than 900 principals would have moved from a current salary of between $118,863 and $128,805 to a minimum salary of between $132,376 and $142,866 after three years - about $14,000 extra.

• Another 270 principals would have moved from a current salary of at least $134,428 with a minimum increase to $149,458 after three years - an extra $15,000.

• For principals of larger schools the increase after three years would have been considerably higher.

"Pay parity between primary and secondary principals is a much more complex issue than it is between teachers," she said.

"Under the Accord, we have already agreed to discuss the extent to which pay parity might be applied to principals. We remain available to meet with NZEI to discuss how the offer could be repackaged within the existing envelope for primary principals."