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Source: New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI)

New Zealand’s largest education union says there are a number of pleasing aspects of this year’s Budget but it is frustrating to see no long-term commitment to fixing the issues of under staffing and increased work demands that affect the quality of education our tamariki receive.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Liam Rutherford says while the education sector knew this year’s Budget would focus on health and climate change, there had been some hope the Government would look to start to fix some of the issues facing educators. 

“We hoped the government might start to tackle the student-teacher ratios, offer greater support for school leadership and address the funding for support staff and for teachers working with students with specialised needs.  

“So, for people working in primary education it looks like another year of frustration and another year of worrying about how under-staffing and inadequate support affects the education our tamariki are receiving.  

“What is concerning is that the last two years dealing with COVID-19 have exacerbated the issues that are leading to diminished feelings of wellbeing, increased stress and greater rates of burnout. 

“That doesn’t help our educators provide the learning environment we want our children to have.” 

Mr Rutherford says while the Government addressed the current cost-of-living crisis, which could help lessen the impact of poverty compounding issues in education, it was imperative it also move away from bulk funding of school support staff to a new system that ensures fair pay for teacher aides and school administration staff.

Significant progress in the Early Childhood Sector

However, he says union members have won significant progress towards pay parity for all teachers, with $266 million in operational funding for early childhood teachers.

This includes the introduction of a minimum rate for early childhood centre managers that will help to retain experienced teachers and attract new people to the sector.

“Early childhood teachers now have a transparent, consistent pay scale based on union collective agreements like their counterparts in primary and kindergarten education,” he says.

“However, this is not full parity as experienced teacher and managers are still on lower rates than their counterparts. NZEI Te Riu Roa members will push to the finish the job and ensure that the whole sector is covered by parity rates.”

Slow progress towards Pūaotanga recommendations

Mr Rutherford says there are also some pleasing developments in Māori and Pasifika education with more than $56 million in funding to increase the number of teachers in Māori medium education.  

There is also more than $18 million towards increasing the number of Pasifika bilingual teachers and additional funding for the professional development of teachers of Pasifika students. 

“These initiatives were seen as being crucial in addressing the long-standing shortcomings of the education system for Māori and Pasifika students that were identified in last year’s independent Pūaotanga report,” Mr Rutherford says, adding the pre-Budget announcement of the extension of the Mana Ake mental wellbeing initiative for children was also recommended in the report.

“But it is a shame the Government did not start to implement some of the other recommendations from the Pūaotanga report, which we would urge them to look at again to implement the changes that will deliver the education system our tamariki deserve.”