Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs out there. The difference teachers make to the lives of children and young people is astounding. You have the chance to be a true inspiration, a positive role model, someone who pushes you to try harder and achieve your dreams but, unfortunately, there are some real pitfalls and sometimes those pitfalls can make such a rewarding job stressful and exhausting.

Teacher pay, class sizes, constant scrutiny and workload are ongoing issues where lots of teachers feel they aren’t given the respect and the support they need to do their incredibly important job. Teachers work hard for their pupils but sometimes feel let down by the education system or maybe even their own schools or management. For all the good things that some schools are doing to support teachers and let them know they are valued, some stop short (however this isn’t always by choice).

In New Zealand, primary teachers went on strike on Wednesday, and when I say teachers I mean a lot of teachers, around 29,000 teachers. As you can imagine, this means a vast number of pupils were unable to go to school. What actions did New Zealand take? The Guardian explains: “Zoos, community halls and churches hold all-day events to help keep 400,000 children occupied.”  If this isn’t already sending a huge message, you should also know that this is the first-time teachers have held a strike there in 24 years. You are probably wondering what were they striking for? Unsurprisingly, they are unhappy with class sizes, teacher pay, lack of staff and “excessive administration requirements.”  They want “a pay rise of 16% over two years.”

The NZEI (a teacher’s union) is debating with the New Zealand government about what its members feel would be better investment in education, including: less paperwork, SENCOs in all schools, reduced class sizes and “benefits to help attract and retain younger teachers as the majority of the workforce nears retirement age.” The government has offered pay rises that the union rejected, as the larger pay rises were only offered to a small number of teachers and principals.

However, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made a statement supporting concerns raised by New Zealand teachers, explaining that she believes the government can provide the support needed. “There are a number of issues that the teachers have rightfully raised but I think we’re making good progress. Our hope now is we can resolve outstanding issues at the table,” said Ardern.

The issues teachers are raising are also reflected in the number of new teachers coming into the work force as concerningly, Louise Green (lead negotiator for NZEI) explained: “In the last eight years 40% fewer people were training to be teachers.” Over here, the statistics on those applying to teach isn’t great either. UCAS data published on 18/12/17 showed “teacher recruitment numbers are down by a third compared with a year ago.”

This makes me wonder not only what the next step in supporting New Zealand’s teachers will be but what the next step will be for the UK too.

Sources:
‘Crisis point’: New Zealand hit by primary school teacher strike, Eleanor Ainge Roy, 15/08/18
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/15/crisis-point-new-zealand-hit-by-primary-school-teacher-strike

‘Alarming’ new stats show teacher recruitment down by a third, tes.com, Will Hazell, 04/01/18
https://www.tes.com/news/alarming-new-stats-show-teacher-recruitment-down-third

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