Op-ed: 4 reasons why my schools are NOT striking

SAMS Principal Wendy Greig with two students at last year’s prizegiving. Image supplied by Villa Education Trust

By Alwyn Poole
First published Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tomorrow thousands of teachers walk off the job and it looks like about 2000 schools will close.

Our two State Schools will be fully staffed and fully operational – and for good reasons.

Firstly the children who come to South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland are, on average, two years behind from their previous six years of schooling. They need every minute, hour and day that we can give them. We can show that they make approximately 1.5 years worth of growth for each year with us but this is highly dependent on consistency and using every day. We don’t have teacher-only days and have the children fully engaged up to the last day of each term.

Secondly, the last thing many of their parents/caregivers need is extra cost and hours of work lost through a teacher strike. Teachers may consider that they can afford to lose a day’s income – many of the school families can’t. At our schools we provide uniform, stationery, IT and do not ask for donations. This saves our families approximately $900 per child in February (and many have 2 – 3 children with us). To hit working families with costs now is counter-productive – as is hitting businesses with parents taking days off because they need to care for their children because the teachers are on strike.

Thirdly, the collective contract is completely outmoded – it does not recognise regional differences – it does not allow difficult to staff schools to incentivise, it does not allow schools to provide extra benefits such as health and life insurance. With a new government this was a chance for the union/profession to modernise – not hark back to the 1950s.

Fourthly, many of the things teachers are complaining about are school management issues and not contractual. Schools determine their class sizes. Much of the additional workload piled on teachers is through their principals and middle management through countless and needless meetings and administrative requirements to justify their own existence. The strikes are missing the correct target and the vast majority of workload issues are not dictated by the contracts.

The strikes are about pressuring the government through public support. Strikes are so very last century. If schools have the support of their community then do a Community Sit-In after school one day and publicise that through effective social media. Don’t put the kids on the street.

Because of the way that they operate – including their bullying approach – only one of our 65 staff have chosen to join a teacher union. Our kids love coming to our schools (our transience and truancy levels are very low) and make great progress. Our staff turnover is also negligible and we have few problems filling any vacancies that do come up with good people. 

There was/is a better way to increase incomes for teachers than harmful strikes – particularly when the independent Employment Relations Authority has said it is a good offer. 

We are fully open tomorrow.