Primary and area school principals from across Aotearoa have rejected a Ministry of Education offer to settle their collective employment agreements and unequivocally told the government it is time to take action now to fix the education system.
It follows a decision by primary and area school teachers to also reject the offers made on behalf of the government and to ask the Ministry to re-enter negotiations for a better agreement.
NZEI vice-president Ripeka Lessels told teaomaori.news the principals felt the offer didn't acknowledge the challenges they face in running the nation's schools.
"Karekau rātou i paku whakaaro, i paku whakarongo ki ngā kōrero, ki ngā amuamu a ngā tumuaki e hāngai ana ki te whakahaere kura. Koinei ngā tumuaki i whakahē mai ai tēnei tono a te kāwanatanga i tēnei wā."
(They didn't pay any attention to the concerns raised by our principals about the issues with running schools. That is why the principals rejected the government's offer this time.)
Lessels, who is also the tumuaki of Te Whata Tau o Pūtauaki in Kawerau, says the challenges faced by principals have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic including having to take care of the students and teachers as they transitioned to distance learning at home during lockdowns. In many cases, principals also helped community efforts to take care of whānau who needed support during lockdowns.
She says the government needs to do more, and quickly to address the fundamental causes of the principals' concerns including increasing the number of support teachers in classrooms, particularly for students with needs and releasing pressure on teacher shortages.
"Homai ki ngā kura katoa tētahi kaiako hei awhina i tērā taha o te kura. Koirā tō mātou e hiahia nei, kia taka mai tētahi ki roto i ngā kura. Karekau tētahi kei roto i tāku nei kura, ka riro mai mā tētahi o aku kaiako tērā mahi hei whakahaere, i runga i ana mahi whakaako. Ka riro mā ngā tumuaki anō tēnā taha o te pūtea e whakatikatika. Atu rā ki ngā pūtea ki ngā tumuaki. Nui noa atu te awhina e tāea e te Tāhuhu mehemea ka noho mai rātou ki te whakarongo."
(All schools need at least one learning support coordinator in their school. That is what we want, for those people to be brought into our schools. I don't have one at my school, so that responsibility falls on to one of my teachers, which is on top of their own primary role. And principals often end up having to find the funding themselves to employ these extra staff. This is more than simply pay rises for principals. The ministry can be providing much more support than it is if only it would listen to us.)