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New NZEI Te Riu Roa President Starts Work


New NZEI Te Riu Roa President Starts Work

Wellington primary school principal, Colin Tarr, has begun his term as the National President of the country’s largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa.

NZEI Te Riu Roa has more than 42,000 members spanning four education sectors. It represents early childhood teachers, teachers and principals in primary, intermediate and area schools, support staff in primary and secondary schools, special education staff working in primary and secondary schools and school advisers based in tertiary institutions.

Colin was elected at the union’s Annual Meeting in September last year and became National President on January 1. He is based at the union’s National Office in Wellington and is on leave from his job as principal at Pukeatua Primary in Wainuiomata, which has 450 students and 33 staff.

Pukeatua opened in 2002. It was established after the merger of two primary schools, Glendale, where Colin was principal, and Pencarrow. This followed an Area Review which reduced the number of state schools in Wainuiomata from 12 to 7.

“I have had first hand experience of an area review and the school reorganisation that followed. I know about the stress and upheaval this causes for the students, the staff, the parents and in fact the whole community,” says Colin Tarr.

“I was principal of a school involved in a merger and am now principal of the new school that was created by that merger. There are currently more than 2000 NZEI members going through the same process and the union’s staff throughout the country are working extremely hard to ensure they are treated fairly.”

“Going through a review taught me a number of lessons. The staff of a school are its number one asset and they must be treated fairly if a reorganisation is to succeed.”

“The educational needs of students must lie at the heart of any decisions that are made when re-organising schools, and the community must be listened to during a review because without their support a school reorganisation will never work,” says Colin Tarr.

Colin’s teaching career began 21 years ago at Brentwood College in Trentham, in Upper Hutt. A year later, in 1984, he moved to St Joseph’s School in Upper Hutt, then in 1986 shifted to Auckland, where he taught for a year at Howick Primary. He then taught for three years at a secondary school, Sacred Heart College, a boys’ school in Glen Innes. In 1990 Colin was appointed Deputy Principal at Manurewa East School and a year later became the school’s principal, at the age of 28, after just nine years of teaching. In 1994 he moved to Northcote Primary where he was principal for three years before leaving Auckland to become principal of Morrinsville Intermediate in the Waikato.

In 1997 Colin was seconded to work as a reviewer for the Education Review Office and in the following year went to work for NZEI as a communications and educational/professional development manager in the union’s National Office.

In 2000 he went back to a school, becoming principal at Glendale School in Wainuiomata, where an Area Review had just begun. As noted Glendale was merged with Pencarrow School and Colin became principal of the new school, Pukeatua Primary, in 2002.

Colin says he has never regretted becoming a teacher. “I am constantly energised and enthused by the kids and staff. Having the opportunity to work with kids and the joy they show in life and in learning, makes every day a great day

He joined NZEI Te Riu Roa on his first day at Wellington Teachers’ College and has been an active member of the union throughout his career.

He served on its Auckland District Council for ten years and was its chairperson from 1992 to 1995. He was elected to NZEI’s National Executive in 1995, then resigned in 1998 when he joined the union’s staff. He was re-elected to the National Executive in 2000, when he returned to being a principal. In 2001 he chaired NZEI’s Principals’ Council and a year later was elected National Vice President.

For the last three years Colin has tutored teachers studying for Bachelor of Teaching/Learning degrees through the Christchurch College of Education. He has also studied throughout his career gaining a Bachelor of Education, an Advanced Diploma in Teaching and last year completed a Masters in Education.

Colin has a great enthusiasm for te reo me ona tikanga Maori. Pukeatua School has five Maori immersion classes.

“Te Reo Maori is the indigenous language of Aotearoa/New Zealand and as such I believe there should be a significant emphasis on Te Reo in the school curriculum.”
“I believe Te Reo has the power to unify all New Zealanders, which is something that is becoming increasingly important.”

“Te Reo Maori is unique to this country, it identifies us as New Zealanders. It enables us to make a statement that we are New Zealanders and that we are proud to live in this great country.”

Colin says this will be a busy year for NZEI.

“We are negotiating the country’s largest collective employment agreement covering more than 25,000 teachers in Area and Primary schools. We will also be negotiating a collective agreement for more than 2000 principals in Area and Primary schools.”

“This is a first step in building a unified teaching profession. NZEI’s long term goal is to have one agreement for all its registered teacher and principal members working in state schools.”


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