Sector revolts against teacher cuts

Thursday 31 May 2012 5:57 p.m.

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By Ingrid Hipkiss

The Education Minister knew she had a fight on her hands - but now it is turning into a war.

The Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools says its relationship with the ministry has completely broken down, and in an unprecedented move, teachers, principals, trustees and parents are all preparing to fight her together, to stop cuts to teacher numbers.

Education Minister Hekia Parata wants bigger classes but teachers say their students simply will not get the attention they need.

“I just can’t imagine going back to a day of 30-plus classes again,” says primary school principal Barbara Hay. “It’s going to be a disaster and if they see that then I’m sorry, but they’re just not competent to run our education system.”

And as word of the protest got out members of the public joined in too.

“We drove 10, 15 minutes down here just to be part of the voice and show our concern,” says Tim Bish.

By the afternoon Ms Parata's problems got bigger and, for the first time ever, the entire education sector - that is teachers, trustees, principals and both big unions - plan to join forces to fight the changes.

“What New Zealand’s going to see for the first time is every education group outside the Ministry of Education sitting around a table and saying we don’t accept this,” says Gary Sweeney, of the Intermediate and Middle Schooling Association. 

Wide ranging industrial action will be on the agenda when those groups meet to come up with a battle plan on Tuesday.

Already the group representing the country's intermediate schools has vowed to stop working with the Ministry of Education, unless there is a moratorium on the cuts.

“Taking staff away, just telling us it’s going to happen – it’s not good enough, that’s not a relationship,” says Mr Sweeney.

So if Ms Parata thought capping teacher losses at two would calm the backlash she was wrong - she has a sector revolt on her hands.

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