Teaching mega-strike: Teachers warn they'll quit if demands not met

Here comes the teaching 'mega-strike'.

More than 50,000 teachers - from both primary and secondary schools - will walk out of the classroom on Wednesday and march through the streets of our main cities, demanding a better deal from the Government.

The strike will close at least half of our schools and has left the parents of almost 774,000 children scrambling to find other things for them to do.

The Government says it's offered $1.2 billion to the teachers and it won't back down. However teachers say it isn't pay they're crying out for, it's support. Some teachers have even said they're ready to quit their jobs if nothing changes.

Classrooms at Ruakaka School in Northland have the usual chaos of students busily learning.

But adding to teachers responsibilities are the needs of children with disability requirements, learning difficulties and behavioural needs.

"[They're] running out of the room, climbing up on water tanks, in trees, throwing furniture around," says deputy principal and special educational needs coordinator Jo Irvine. "Last week we had a teacher head-butted and a chair thrown at them."

Eighteen teacher aides are employed at Ruakaka School to help teachers keep classrooms running smoothly.

But with the Ministry of Education only funding some teacher aides for just over four hours a week, Ruakaka School tops up the funding so one-on-one assistance can be given to the children that need it all day, every day.

"We blew our budget by $70,000 last year and that was running a really tight ship, just to make sure that students were safe," Irvine says.

"I'm actually petrified that this year it's going to be $100,000, and that's money that we're not using elsewhere in the school."

Ruakaka School principal Marilyn Dunn says the needs of children have increased and that's putting more pressure on teachers who want to help them.

"It's just the constant battling for everything," she told Newshub.

"When we say we're crying out for more support we really are," Irvine adds.

It's that same lack of support that has Havelock North High School teacher Andy Reeves preparing to retire from the profession that he loves.

He says after 39 years as a maths teacher, the workload has become difficult to manage because long days teaching big classes leave little time for preparation and marking.

"The quality of New Zealand teachers is one of the highest in the world, the support for them is one of the lowest and that has to change!" he argues.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says Thursday's Budget won't have any additional funding for teacher salaries, but it will take steps towards addressing some of the other concerns teachers have raised.

"The reality is we can't do everything overnight and we can't do everything immediately, and so many of the changes the teachers are asking for actually take time to implement and you can't simply flick a switch and do them overnight," he says.

But teachers have been wanting a whole lot of switches flicked for a long time - and if tomorrow's strike achieves nothing, some are ready to give the job the flick.


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