Education: Student worries about impact of strikes on grades

After more than a year of negotiations and strikes, primary school teachers have accepted their latest pay rise deal.

It comes with a lump sum payment of $3000 - even more for union members - and a 10 percent pay increase over the next year.

But it looks unlikely secondary teachers will follow suit, meaning more strikes for high school students, even during exams.

Olivia Pratt wants to be an Air Force pilot but is concerned teacher strikes will get in the way of her getting the grades she needs. 

"Quite a lot of our teachers are basically not giving us the help that we need to be able to succeed in our classes and actually get the grades that we strive to get," she said.

She's in Year 12 and said she and her friends just want to learn.

"I'd like to see at least if they're going to strike different ways that they can do it without holding us students for ransom," said Pratt. 

PPTA acting president Chris Abercrombie said: "We haven't had a pay rise for two years, when I know teachers who have second jobs, who go to food banks and that's not what we want in Aotearoa New Zealand."

On Wednesday, after a year of negotiating, and the largest teachers strike in history, primary teachers with the NZEI union accepted their fourth pay rise offer. But secondary teachers are currently voting on their deal.

The PPTA union has advised them to reject it because the pay rise doesn't match inflation.

"This is fully in the Government's court. They could finish this today if they chose to," said Abercrombie. 

Education Minister Jan Tinetti said she couldn't comment on the negotiations.

"Today is about celebrating our NZEI members," she said. 

It's likely the secondary teachers will continue with rolling strikes and rostering students to stay home. That includes during the week of NCEA co-requisite exams for reading, writing and numeracy.

"We want this resolved and unfortunately this seems the only way the Government listens to us is when we take industrial action," said Abercrombie. 

Tinetti said, "disruption is hard for everyone".

"I think it's hard for the whole community. It's us that get frustrated, it's the young people."

Pratt has felt disheartened.

"There have been times that I've been sitting there and being like, 'I can't do this, I'm not getting what I need, I just want to leave school and teach myself'."

So many students have given up.

Newshub can reveal just how many are now totally disengaged with the school system.

At the start of 2017, there were just under 3000 students who were unenrolled. This steadily increased but then in March last year, skyrocketed.

By March this year there were more than 9000.

"COVID had a big impact on engagement and we know that that's going to take a long time to work through the ramifications of that, but we do have a laser-sharp focus on this," said Tinetti.

But Erica Stanford, National's education spokesperson, said: "Despite all of the reports, all of the spend, nothing is getting better and these kids are just being let down."

Kids like Olivia who just wants to learn.

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