From "Our Shout" the electronic newsletter from the PPTA.
It’s official. Teaching is one of the most important jobs in the country. Education Minister Trevor Mallard said so himself on National Radio this week.
We at the PPTA couldn’t agree more. But actions speak louder than words and, so far, Mr Mallard’s actions belie his words.
“It is one which I think is the most important job in the country,” he said on National Radio. “The future of the country depends on having high quality teachers.”
Exactly. Why then is Mr Mallard forcing secondary teachers to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of money they can get? Why, when they decide to take industrial action does he pull the plug on getting a settlement by refusing to negotiate, then claim he doesn’t know what our members want? He knows what they want, we have told him often enough.
Our members want some recognition for doing the most important job in the country. They want more money, better conditions and a better education system. Only then will New Zealand be able to build the knowledge economy so often talked about by this Government. Surely education is the foundation of a knowledge economy.
Mr Mallard’s recent comments against, and criticisms of, PPTA in the media have merely added fuel to the fire and incensed our members further. Like Mr Mallard, their patience is wearing thin.
Secondary teachers do an excellent job. In an OECD report on the Programme for International Student Assessment New Zealand ranked third for average performance in reading and mathematical literacy and sixth for scientific literacy. These are results that teachers and students can take pride in.
But we have a crisis on our hands. There are not enough teachers to go round.
An analysis of the latest Education Gazette by PPTA shows that there are currently 183 secondary teacher vacancies. That’s 135% up on the number required at the same time last year and more than any other year since 1992. Mr Mallard says things are tight but there isn’t a crisis. What more proof does he need? His own Ministry’s figures concur with ours.
According to the Government’s staffing survey, at the beginning of the year there were 238 vacancies – 67 more than at the same time the previous year. That’s about the equivalent number of teachers of 3 good-sized urban schools or 4-5 provincial schools.
But it’s not just numbers that are worrying. Those figures showed some even more disturbing trends. Traditionally, science and mathematics have always been hard to staff subjects. But this year’s survey showed that there were as many English teachers required at the start of the school year as there were science teachers. This shows just how serious a problem teacher supply is becoming, English is never normally difficult to fill.
PPTA members are angry and disappointed at Mr Mallard’s lack of understanding of their issues, at his constant denial of the teacher supply crisis and ignorance of the ever-increasing workload problems.
Our members are striking for better pay, better conditions and, ultimately, a better education system. It’s time they were taken seriously.