Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Dunne Speaks: The Teachers' Strike

This week around 30,000 primary and intermediate school teachers have been on strike, closing nearly 2,000 schools for a day. To date, there appears to have been general public support for the industrial action, but the jury is still out as to whether this will continue if the action is prolonged, especially if it is joined by secondary teachers a little way down the track, as has been mooted.

There are early signs, however, that it is in danger of becoming a lost opportunity, just one more round of action across the public sector that has escalated since the current government took office, and let public servants across the board believe nirvana was at hand, an impression Ministers have been keen to foster but not so rapidly deliver.

The case for increased investment in education is strong. The pace of change in contemporary society, the changing international cultural, social, economic and political environments, as well as new emerging industries to replace old technologies are all placing performance pressure on the education sector. Parents increasingly look to our having a world class education system to equip their children with the skills and capacities these changes are requiring. So the question quickly becomes how the teaching profession contributes to this rapidly changing environment.

While better salaries for teachers is undoubtedly an important component of this jigsaw, it is by no means the only one, and claims from the teachers' unions that their salary claims are about a better "investment' in education are questionable. At the same time, issues about teachers' conditions of service need to go under the microscope and be assessed alongside other priority areas in education, such as buildings and facilities, access to technology, professional development and training, and performance accountability. Wider issues relating to recruitment and retention of teachers and the structure of the teaching profession also need to be addressed. Even the teachers' unions acknowledge the unacceptably high rates of teachers leaving the profession after the first few years when they strike the bottleneck of insufficient promotion opportunities above them, but they seem less enthusiastic about focusing on them.

A simple corollary of this is that paying teachers more, without addressing these broader issues will solve nothing. So while overall salary rates are being considered, the issue of how younger teachers can have a more attractive career pathway must also be resolved. Now this is a much more difficult matter because it inevitably raises the question of how older and poorer performing teachers (by no means the same thing) can be moved on, to make way for their younger, or more capable, colleagues.

To date, teachers seem to have shown less interest in these issues, preferring instead the argument that if all teachers were just paid more, many of their retention and career development concerns would be dealt with. Given that the deeper questions also lead quickly to other issues - like performance payments to attract and retain better teachers, or flexibility for Boards of Trustees to reward their better teachers in other ways to ensure their retention - the unions' position is understandable. After all, more flexibility within the workforce, and differing arrangements for certain groups of teachers, inevitably weakens the strength of the collective approach that lies at the core of the way the unions work.

But here is where the current industrial action risks becoming a lost opportunity. Parents are driven by wanting the best for their children - the best teachers in the classroom, with the best of equipment and resources available to them. For many of them, the idea of paying good teachers more, and moving poorer teachers aside is a no-brainer. After all, their children deserve no less than the best. They are far less concerned about issues like collegiality and teaching being a collaborative not a competitive profession, for example, if they see those things getting in the way of their children getting the best.

At the moment, parents broadly support their teachers. But if the current industrial action becomes prolonged and narrowly focused on just bigger salary increases, that support will likely quickly evaporate. For the sake of our children, who are ultimately a far bigger part of this equation than teachers or politicians, it is vital that the wider issue of the best structure for the modern teaching profession now assumes centre stage, and that salary issues are considered in relation to that. Failure to take the chance to do so, would be a lost opportunity from which ultimately no-one will benefit.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Tax Working Group’s Road Map

Trying to analyse the interim report on the Tax Working Group (TWG) is like trying to review an entire All Blacks game, but at the half- time mark.

With so much still to be finalised, Sir Michael Cullen and his colleagues are going to need all the All Blacks’ fabled finishing skills to get a coherent, fiscally neutral package together by the February 2019 deadline. More>>


Meth Testing Report: Housing NZ "To Right Wrong"

Phil Twyford “Housing NZ acknowledges that around 800 tenants suffered by either losing their tenancies, losing their possessions, being suspended from the public housing waiting list, negative effects on their credit ratings or, in the worst cases, being made homeless.” More>>


No Reshuffle: Meka Whaitiri Removed As A Minister

Meka Whaitiri will be removed as a Minister with immediate effect... The decision was made after receiving a report into an incident that occurred on 27 August in Gisborne, involving Meka Whaitiri and one of her staff. More>>


Pay Equity Bill: Making History For Women’s Pay

The Equal Pay Amendment Bill, introduced to the House today, will make it easier for workers to make a pay equity claim , using a more simple and accessible process within New Zealand’s existing bargaining framework. More>>


Suffrage 125: NZ A Trailblazer For Women

“We acknowledge the work of Kate Sheppard, Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, and all of the suffragists who tirelessly campaigned for the vote… Today we also need to ask each other: how we can continue to make our country a fairer and better place to continue the legacy of the suffragists.” More>>


Asylum: Refugee Quota Increasing To 1500

“The quota increase will take place from July 2020. In the meantime, we will work to increase the number and spread of refugee resettlement and support services. We need to make sure we’re prepared for this change in policy.” More>>





InfoPages News Channels