The future of primary school leaders is at risk, say Bay of Plenty principals in light of the latest offer by the Government, despite good news for teachers.

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, 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.

Advertisement

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.

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.

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.

Tahatai Coast School principal and WBOP principals association chairman Matt Skilton said the offer would mean the 3 per cent increase to his base salary would mean he would have less purchasing power in three years time with inflation.

Tahatai Coast School principal and WBOP principals association chairman Matt Skilton. Photo / File
Tahatai Coast School principal and WBOP principals association chairman Matt Skilton. Photo / File

"How many companies can you name where CEOs earn less than their managers ... there's responsibility that comes with that pay," he said.

Advertisement

"You want to encourage the very best people to get into those jobs and they're not doing that," he said.

He said being paid less than a deputy, given the difference in roles, was "a bit of a kick in the guts".

He said the current pathway being promoted was "exceptional leaders" that would stall at the deputy level as it would not be a viable option.

Pillans Point School principal Matt Simeon said schools were constantly under scrutiny within communities. "We're dealing with people's lives".

"We're not being recognised for the level of scrutiny and pressure that we are applied through our communities," Simeon said.

Malfroy School principal Nicky Brell was disappointed "nothing really came through that was long-term" for current and aspiring principals.

Pillans Point School principal Matt Simeon. Photo / File
Pillans Point School principal Matt Simeon. Photo / File

Brell said the role of school leaders was part of the team effort it took to run a school and was being unappreciated by the Government's offer.

"It's important we have the right working conditions, the right support and right acknowledgement," he said.

He said parents and the community supported the profession and expected the best from teachers, "and we need to give them the best".

Selwyn School principal Peter Barker said attracting quality principals to the profession was at risk if the pay gap between a principal and a well-paid deputy was minimised.

"When you consider the responsibility, liability and expectations of principals in all schools compared to that of a deputy principal, there's a real disparity," Barker said.

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.

Primary teachers have accepted their offer. Photo / Ben Fraser
Primary teachers have accepted their offer. Photo / Ben Fraser

Ministry of Education secretary for education Iona Holsted said the MOE was disappointed primary principals rejected the "substantial" offer made to them.

She said more than 1900 primary principals had walked away from an immediate $1500 payment as well as pay rises of up to 13 per cent for more than 500 principals.

Principals of schools of fewer than 100 students would have moved to a minimum salary of $102,898 after three years – an extra $15,000.

More than 900 principals would have moved from a current salary of up to $128,805 to a minimum salary of between $132,376 and $142,866 after three years.

Another 270 principals would have moved from a current salary of at least $134,428 with a minimum increase to $149,458.

What was rejected by principals:
- Small schools - a minimum salary of $87,734 to $102,898 after three years.
- Medium schools - a minimum salary of $118,863 to $132,376 in three years.
- Large schools - a minimum salary of $134,428 to $149,458 over three years.

-Additional reporting Simon Collins