Thousands march in support of striking teachers

Some 50,000 teachers nationwide walked off the job today, calling for better pay and conditions. It's the first time early childhood, primary and secondary school teachers have banded together on the issue.

Large protests were held all over the country today including in Wellington and in Auckland, where an estimated 10,000 people walked up Queen St to support teachers' demands.

Some of the offers that the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and the Post Primary Teachers’ Association Te Wehengarua (PPTA) rejected included a $6000 pay rise over two years, $4,000 in the first year with a further $2,000 in the second.

Anneke Brouwers is a first-year teacher in a Māori medium classroom at Newton Central School. She says it's not just about money.

"It's not just about pay. We are doing this because our work conditions are exhausting."

"There is a lot of work to lift them up. We need more support staff to help support us. We are only one among 20 to 30 kids in a classroom and there is only so much we can do."

'Not even close'

For Ripeka Lessels, tūmuakī at Te Whatatau o Pūtauākī the offer is only a pittance.

"The government's offer doesn't even come close to what teachers are calling for."

Thousand also attended rallies at Parliament with newly-minted Education Minister Jan Tinetti - a former teacher and principal - on hand to address the protesters.

She got rapturous applause when she stated, "I have been in this position for around six weeks now and I know we can do better and I am committed to doing better."

But Māori Education Minister Kelvin Davis - another former teacher and principal - was much more circumspect.

"We must continue to discuss these issues with the Ministry of Education at the appropriate time I believe we will see the fruits of those discussions."