Northland principals say there is an education crisis.

With principals working 60-hours-plus weeks, teachers working at least four hours of overtime each day, a shortage of principals and teachers, and a lack of resources and support, educators are unable to give every child the learning opportunities they deserve.

Whangarei primary, intermediate and area school principals attended an NZEI Te Riu Roa paid union meeting at Whangarei Intermediate School yesterday where they discussed the issues they face as educators.

Judy Eagles, the principal of Maungatapere School, said there was a "crisis in education".

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"The core issues are around the current crisis in education - in attracting and retaining teachers, the time and workload for teachers and principals that is taking away from their ability to provide quality education, and the support and funding that needs to go in to ensure that children get the best education they deserve," she said.

Paid union meetings are being held nationwide before approaching collective agreement negotiations. Meetings for teachers and principals in Northland began last week and continue this week.

Teachers and principals are asking for a 16 per cent pay increase over two years to attract and retain teachers, more resources and support, and better working conditions.

At present a beginner teacher who graduated with a bachelor of education starts at $49,000 and after about nine years' teaching experience will earn about $72,000.

Leanne Otene, the principal of Manaia View School, said there was a shortage of teachers and principals in Northland.

"We have middle management that are not all keen to take on our role of principal because of our conditions ... You put your heart and soul into getting the very best for the students in your school and we want our Te Tai Tokerau tamariki to have a quality education," Ms Otene said.

"We can't have that if we don't have quality people applying for quality jobs in our schools."

Sally Wilson, the principal of Kamo Primary School, said teachers had not been heard and they hoped the new Government would listen.

"We've put up with these inequities for too long and it's become evident now that by putting up with them for too long we do have this crisis situation ... we're hoping with this new Government and their forward thinking taking away National Standards, that we're actually going to get some solid change."

The principals said they were very frustrated and if nothing changed the "crisis would become a tidal wave".