NZEI won't rule out strikes over ChCh school plans
Monday 18 Feb 2013 9:13 a.m.
Teachers' union NZEI says it called off a planned strike for today because its members wanted to be with their pupils and fellow staff.
More than 30 schools in Christchurch this morning will find out whether the Government plans to push ahead with mergers or closures first announced in September last year.
Education Minister Hekia Parata will make the decisions public at midday, though a spokesperson from her office told 3 News they were not final.
NZEI president Judith Nowotarski told Firstline this morning the union wouldn't rule out taking strike action in the future.
"If we're not happy with the announcements we need to first just come around the communities, come around the schools, and come back, regroup and think about what the next option is," she told host Rachel Smalley.
"We really had to think about the best way to manage these next two days – today, and our rally tomorrow. What we were getting back from members after the break, after that initial huge anger and frustration and feeling of just being put upon, we heard from our members saying, actually, from today's announcements… they had this need and this real desire to be with their communities – with their teachers, principals, with the children of the schools, especially those schools proposed to be affected by her announcements."
Ms Nowotarski doesn't dispute that school rolls in the Christchurch region have dropped – the Ministry of Education says there are 4300 fewer pupils that before the quakes – but says local communities need the familiarity a school provides.
"I wouldn't dispute their findings, however you can't look at the big picture and take away the small details, the important things that matter in the community… what they need is that closeness, that proximity to something that is familiar, that is constant, and that's what a school in a local community provides.
"My understanding that communities themselves, with their principals and boards, are really trying to deliver the message look carefully at what you're doing, look at the location we're in, look at the community we have, and make sure that the data you're using to make decisions like this is absolutely reliable and absolutely useful."
Ms Nowotarski says tomorrow's rally at the CBS Arena at 4pm is to "show solidarity with the affected schools".
"The community, and especially members down here, still want the opportunity to have their say and to voice their advocacy for what's good quality teaching in Christchurch, so absolutely we need to pull everyone together," she says.
"We've invited the wider community to come on board with us. We need to make sure the message we make about listening to Christchurch, about working with the communities and alongside those it most affects, that that's still out there going forward. So from the outcomes today, carrying on doesn't finish tomorrow, but the rally is the starting point for moving forward."
The Government announced it would be closing 13 schools and merging 18 others last September due to population changes and damage caused by the February 2011 earthquake. A backlash from staff and parents over flaws in the ministry's data prompted the ministry to reconsider some of its decisions.
Ms Parata's announcement will be streamed live on shapingeducation.govt.nz.