Tararua teachers say their profession is in crisis and kids in the district deserve better.
Teachers from across the district met with NZEI representatives at a meeting in Dannevirke on Tuesday morning to learn of the latest offer from Government, before marching along High St to try to inform the public of the real issues they believe education is facing.
"It's about our kids now, not in 2020," Janine Satchwell, principal of Weber School, told the Dannevirke News.
"Teaching is in crisis," Paul Nees, NZEI principals' support officer, said.
"Everyone is burning out and people are leaving the profession. The crisis in teaching is deepening, people are leaving, but the number of children in schools is growing. We need urgent action to alleviate the workload issues, because there are not enough resources for kids and to attract people into teaching. This profession has to be valued."
And it's not about money, teachers who rallied in Dannevirke insisted.
"The money is important to attract more people to our profession, but for those on the ground now, we just want to do the best for our kids," Satchwell said.
"What we are asking for is physical help in our classrooms, so we can give time to children with learning difficulties, behavioural problems, as well as our gifted children. We love our school and are so lucky we are fully staffed, but we struggle to get relief teachers."
Karen Phelps, a teacher at Weber School, said teachers always do a good job, but they could do an even better job with more support on the ground.
"Our little country school isn't likely to get any of the 600 extra learning support staff the Government has announced," she said.
"Our dilemma is how to access support for those who need it. Last year we employed a teacher from overseas who didn't last the year and we advertised three times before we found a great replacement. We are the only school in Dannevirke without a vacancy."
NZEI representative Janet Tolley also emphasised the strike action wasn't about the money.
"It's about the workload, which is becoming unmanageable," she said.
"The kids of 2018 are so different from when I graduated 20 years ago and they deserve better. And having more money doesn't stop the long hours. We can't do our job without working more hours."
And forget those so-called long holidays.
"A lot of teachers have finance, property and professional development meetings in the holidays," Satchwell said.
Satchwell is busy at 5.30am on Mondays preparing for the week ahead and Tolley said she doesn't know how people like Satchwell do it, especially when they have young children of their own.
And Nees said he knows of principals struggling to get the mandatory four weeks' holidays in a year.
Jo Brown, early childhood education co-ordinator at Tararua Reap, said teachers were exhausted.
"Our education system is so broken," she said. "If it continues there will be even fewer teachers. Where does that leave our tamariki? As a teacher I felt totally undervalued and kicked in the guts by the last government. I am hoping that over time this Government will repair the damage."
The most recent offer from the Government to teachers is a 3 per cent pay rise each year for three years, with most teachers receiving a pay rise of between $9500 and $11,000 within 24 months.
It would also see a partial removal of the cap on qualifications for some teachers from 2020. All NZEI members would also receive a one-off gross payment of $500.
A principal's view:
• A teacher joining the profession after spending four years at university will receive an increase of around $19 per week from the latest offer straight away.
• A teacher who has been teaching for more than 10 years - and has a full degree - will receive around $27 a week extra.
• Secondary school teachers currently receive 10 days a term release - this enables them to prepare lessons, work with parents, mark assessments and participate in professional learning. Primary school teachers receive two days a term. In the last offer primary teachers were offered a very small increase of 12 minutes extra release, in the new offer this increase has been removed completely.
• Thousands of teacher aides in schools earn only a fraction over minimum wage.
• The starting wage for a police officer is more than $56,000, plus allowances, and overtime. The current starting salary for a teacher is $47,980 with no overtime rates, or standard allowances.
- Source: Feilding Intermediate principal Diane Crate