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Mallard Letter To Secondary School Boards

22 March 2002

Dear Board Chairperson

Over the past weeks a number of boards have placed an open letter to me in their local newspaper. I believe that it is timely for me to put the Government¡¦s position in relation to the matters raised, and outline details of the new offer tabled this week.

Unfortunately, I have just been advised that the PPTA executive have rejected that new offer and will not be taking it out to their members. I am very disappointed by this because my expectation is that we could have continued discussing the offer without a rejection at this time. Surely that is the bargaining process. However, we will have to re-enter bargaining if we are to achieve an outcome. I am prepared to keep on trying to achieve that outcome as soon as possible.

The Government values teachers and the work that they do. I take great pride in our achievements in the sector since becoming the Government in 1999. We have achieved a lot but there is still a lot more to do. The secondary sector in particular faces significant challenges in continuing to adapt to equip students to meet the needs of a changing world. That is why the Government has been keen to secure a rapid settlement of the secondary teachers¡¦ employment agreement.

For this reason, in putting together the resources for the Government¡¦s offer last April, careful thought was given to what the key ingredients of a package should be.

We know we are facing increasing teacher supply pressures in the secondary sector as student rolls increase. We need to continue the increase in teacher trainee numbers that has been occurring over recent years. To this end we have introduced additional incentives to attract graduates to train for teaching in pressure areas such as maths, Maori language, computing, specific science subjects and physical education.

We also recognise that as the supply situation starts to tighten some areas will face difficulties in finding teachers sooner than others. We therefore decided to provide resources to enable proposals for the pay negotiations to include extra payments for teachers in hard to staff areas.

A key feature of the Labour Party¡¦s 1999 education manifesto was a commitment to review school staffing. Because I am aware of the critical importance of teachers to the quality of learning in our schools and because I know how hard many of our teachers work, I put a lot of weight on increasing the number of teachers in line with the recommendations that I received.

We also agreed to the Ministry offering an increase in teachers¡¦ salaries that was broadly in line with the movement in salaries in other areas of the economy. As a result of the last pay round settled in 1999 beginning teachers received a 13% pay rise and experienced teachers a 7% pay rise. With those increases in place teachers¡¦ salaries are in line with pay in comparable professions.

I am keen for the employers in the state sector to look after the longer-term welfare of their employees so we also proposed to make funds available for the introduction of a system of government contributions to a teacher¡¦s retirement savings. Although starting at a relatively low level this subsidy would be increased over time.

Overall I felt the Government had resourced a package that could meet many of the concerns of teachers ¡V a package that was balanced and was manageable from a budget perspective.

I also wanted to do something that has not been a feature of recent negotiations over secondary teachers¡¦ pay; I wanted to achieve a quick settlement without confrontation and prolonged bitterness. I was confident we had produced a package that could bring things to a speedy resolution.

Unfortunately the negotiations did not produce the result I hoped for. This is despite the fact that the Government¡¦s negotiator, the Ministry of Education, made a number of additional concessions. For instance it offered:

„h additional release time for teachers in their second year of teaching of half a day per week at a cost of $4 million per annum;
„h to rework incentives to recruit and retain teachers in hard to staff areas which better met the secondary teachers¡¦ concerns (cost $1.5 million); and
„h to include non-contact time provisions in the employment agreement, and
„h the qualifications working party which will propose how to differentiate entry steps on salary scales dependent on qualifications (i.e. they will propose how to differentiate between three year pre-service teaching degree and the degree plus teaching diploma) and also make recommendations on the maximum of the scale.

In order to secure a settlement, I reluctantly agreed to a significant concession in non-contact provisions in the collective agreement. In my view, conceding to the PPTA claim could, in some schools over time, result in larger classes, narrowing of curriculum choice, uneven workload for teachers, split classes and a reduction of a school¡¦s flexibility to cater for their specific needs and those of their students. However, a large number of teachers, principals and boards advised me strongly to provide the non-contact time because most schools currently provide at least three hours non-contact per week already and they could manage it. My colleagues and I finally agreed in order to get a settlement so that schools could have an uninterrupted start to the 2002 school year. Unfortunately that was not to be.

I am disappointed that these concessions were not sufficient to lead to a ratified settlement and we have now reached the point where the Government is being asked to put a great deal more money into teacher pay.

Given the budget constraints we are working under, if the Government were to agree to do this it would be putting at risk other high priority objectives in education including better early childhood education and stabilisation of tertiary fees.

The PPTA claim included a claim for 600 additional teachers each year for three years (1800 additional teachers in total) to provide sufficient resourcing to enable the non-contact hours to occur. As part of the settlement last year, and on offer again currently, I have stated my intention to implement staffing improvements of 1850 secondary teachers over five years starting this year. The original proposal from the working party was for the implementation in 10 steps and could take up to 10 years. This more than meets the PPTA claim.

Concern has arisen in public discussion about a teacher supply crisis. The teacher supply situation is certainly tight but there isn¡¦t a crisis. You may be interested in the following facts;

„h numbers entering training for secondary teaching have almost doubled over the last decade as the measures to meet the coming roll growth have taken effect. In 1997 there was an increase of 28% from the previous year and this increased number has remained relatively steady since then;
„h loss rates from teaching are at about the same level as they have been in recent years, less than 10%. We know that the loss rates from teaching are going to move up over the coming decade as the great majority of teachers who are currently in their forties and fifties, move closer to retirement;
„h loss rates are higher for younger teachers although that has been true for quite a while. It primarily reflects life choices as teachers leave to travel or have a family. We know that of the younger teachers who leave about 50% return to teaching within three years;
„h there are 1850 more secondary teachers employed in May 2001 than there were in May 1998.

I am not complacent about the teacher supply situation. We have a growing need for more teachers and over the next few years there will be areas of shortage, both regionally and in specific subjects, particularly as we proceed with the increases in teacher numbers that have been planned. For this reason, I have proposed in the new offer a working party to explore new ways of responding quickly to issues related to teacher supply and teacher quality in areas of urgent need.

Perhaps the worst thing that can happen in terms of managing that challenge is a continuation of the current dispute. It puts teaching in a bad light and it undermines the end purpose of teaching ¡V the learning of our young people.

That¡¦s why the Ministry negotiating team tabled a new offer this week and remains willing and keen to keep talking in order to find a way through to a new settlement. We offered two alternative packages in addition to the provisions already agreed as part of the previous settlement.

The first has a new salary offer of 4% from settlement with the term to April 2003 and with a further optional 2% increase in July 2003 with a term to April 2004. It includes a 0.5% Government contribution to retirement savings.

The second has more targeted options which are in response to the concerns of teachers over the impact of the introduction of the NCEA and hard to staff areas. We have proposed;
„h 2000 new fixed term management units (value $2,805p.a.each) for three years and expiring at the end of 2004 across all schools. These would be allocated by the schools to designated teachers who currently hold a unit and have taken on significant additional responsibility to meet the NCEA implementation requirements,
„h tripling the number of teachers who would have access to the hard to staff incentive of $2,500, or $1,500 for teachers who are not yet fully registered,
„h a salary increase of 2% effective from July 2001, a further salary increase of 1.5% effective from July 2002 with the term of the collective to 30 April 2003 and an option of a further 2% from July 2003 with a term of collective to 30 April 2004.
A Government contribution to retirement savings does not form part of this offer.

The Government will also make available to all full-time permanent secondary teachers, the opportunity to lease a laptop computer over a three year period. These laptops will be subsidised by the Crown up to two thirds of the total cost of the lease. At the end of the three years, they will have the opportunity to enter into a new lease or to purchase the laptop. To be eligible, the teacher would be required to be participating in ICT professional development.

The purpose of this provision is to provide the opportunity and stimulus needed to motivate teachers to become effective users of ICT, to improve their capability and teaching practice, and to improve student learning outcomes. The Government¡¦s contribution will reflect its commitment to teacher professional development in ICT and the place of the laptop as a teaching tool. The teacher contribution will reflect their non-work use of the laptop.

Increased teacher uptake of ICT is being sought as part of the ICT strategy. Society is increasingly looking to schools to foster independent and creative thinkers who can confidently solve problems and mange their own learning throughout their lives. ICT can increase the breadth and richness of learning, support the development of higher-order thinking skills and offer additional motivation and relevance for students.

Overall, I believe we had developed an attractive package which is responsive to the issues raised during bargaining. The Ministry negotiators will meet with the PPTA next week to discuss where we can go from here.

I very much hope that we can achieve settlement before the start of the next term.

Yours sincerely

Trevor Mallard
Minister of Education

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