Head of the NZEI is proud of pay lift but principals are prickly on the parity issue

Cold, hard cash settled the teachers’ dispute, even though there  had  been many high-minded  claims  from the union  over  teachers    leaving  the  profession   because of the  stress of  the  job, and the lack of   classroom  support.

Even  in the wake of the settlement  some leaders   within the profession were wailing  the new  pay  scales  would do  little to  attract   fresh  talent into  the profession.

And let’s face it: that’s what NZ schools need.

There  are  still  enormous gaps  in the  education   system  between  high-performing  schools  and  those  at the  lower end of  the scale.  Critics say  standards  in  NZ schools   fall far below  those  in  advanced  economies  like   Singapore  and  Japan. The  government  kicked  in  another  $271m  on  top of the original  $1.2bn over  four  years  to  bring the pay  dispute to an end. Under  the settlement  teachers  will get an average pay increase of 3% over three years, a new top step of $90,000 and pay parity between primary and secondary teachers.  Union members  also receive a one-off lump sum of $1500.

The maximum base salary for all teachers with teaching degrees will be $85,490 per year.

The new top step of $90,000  is to be available to teachers with teaching and subject degrees.

The Ministry of Education estimated at least 24,000 teachers – 46% – will be on $90,000 from  July 1 2021.

The new teachers’ agreement will take effect from July 1, with a three-month delay in the terms and conditions coming into force for non-union members.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart is “immensely proud” that teachers now had a significant pay increase and a unified pay scale with their secondary counterparts.

However, she says the government failed to address to address the need for primary principals to have pay parity with their secondary colleagues.

“Complex workload issues remain, and the improved offer to teachers also amplifies issues around pay relativity for principals of smaller schools”.

As teachers celebrated the end of protracted negotiations, primary principals across the country  are said  now  to be now gearing up to fight again for better pay and conditions.

NZEI lead negotiator Louise Green worries the offer did little to retain current talent or attract new principals into the profession.

Principals of rural schools are also at a disadvantage, Green said.

Potentially principals in these smaller schools will be earning less than teachers in larger schools in leadership roles.I think communities all around our country are going to be worried because the vast majority of schools in our country are smaller schools,” Green said.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins was “disappointed” principals ignored the union’s recommendation to accept the latest offer.

“We were very, very clear with both unions [three or four weeks ago] that this was a final offer.If they want us to reconfigure the offer within the amount of money that’s available … we are always open to talking about that. Always have been. But there will not be any more money for principals in this round”.

The minister said principals were among the highest income earners in their communities, the majority of them earning over $100,000 a year.

He said pay parity was a long-established policy for primary and secondary teachers, but the issue of parity for primary and secondary principals was “a longer-term issue” that would be discussed through an “accord” agreed as part of the pay settlement.

The accord notes that a unified pay scale (UPS) has been confirmed for teachers and says:

The extent to which a UPS relates to principals will be a matter for future discussion.”

Hipkins said:

We put it in the accord because we know we have got some work to do.

He said the next step would be for primary principals to

” … get back around the table with the Ministry of Education.

Of course we need to keep talking to them. There is goodwill, I think.

Let’s  hope    Hipkins  can  build on  that   goodwill  to ensure a  reciprocal  improvement in  teaching  standards,   particularly in  the drive    to   close   the gap in  education  performance among  Maori and  Pasifika  children.

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