Source: Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)
COVID still overshadows all of the work being carried out by PPTA Te Weherangua, writes Melanie Webber
Like all teachers, I love a little remembering trick and so lately when asked about the work of the Association I’ve been going with the five C’s – COVID, Curriculum & NCEA Change, the Claim, the Council and a wee cheat with Can’t find any teachers. All of these are of course linked to the first.
COVID continues to overshadow all of the work of the Association. While the repeal of the mandates has meant we have been able to welcome unvaccinated teachers back into schools, we had teacher shortages before the mandates and we continue to have teacher shortages now. An up in enrolment numbers in Initial Teacher Education last year was sadly undercut by high attrition rates, and a drop back this year to pre-COVID numbers of trainees. Anecdotally we are hearing schools are unable to replace teachers who move elsewhere (often to better paying lower stress jobs in the private sector), and the lack of relief teachers is putting huge pressure on those who remain.
Teachers’ long-term health at risk
Schools are always held together by a significant amount of goodwill, but the impact of this student-first attitude on teachers’ long-term health as they return too quickly from COVID infections is a real concern. Teachers trying to do everything they can for their students are going to burn themselves out, and it will have huge implications. Everything we know about long COVID suggests that taking it easy in the six weeks following infection is critical, but teachers struggle to manage this.
The reopening of the borders to overseas trained teachers will resolve some issues, but the support they need to acclimatise to our context will put additional pressure on schools. And it’s going to do nothing to resolve our ongoing shortage of fluent Te Reo speakers.
NCEA implementation looms ever closer
Meanwhile, we are getting closer and closer to the implementation of the new NCEA standards. While strong lobbying from PPTA led to this being delayed by a year, 2024 is looking ever nearer. More concerningly, what was initially marketed as a ‘refresh’ of the curriculum is looking increasingly like a rewrite. It really feels like this ought to have come before the assessment review. While the ministry continues to reassure that any disconnects should be able to be resolved through the ongoing Review and Maintenance Program (RAMP), those of us who lived through the NCEA realignment of the early 2010s worry that the ramp could be a very steep one. We always knew that there was going to be a workload cost in the NCEA Review but we have been promised short-term pain for long-term gain. It is feeling increasingly like long-term pain.
Strongly supported claim
Our claim seeks to ameliorate some of these issues. Pay rates that encourage recruitment and retention, additional pastoral support, and subject specialist advisors to help with the implementation of NCEA. The development of these claims was impacted by COVID, but with the mahi of branch chairs we still managed to have the discussions we needed to put a claim together that has been strongly supported by members.
Teaching Council not open to discussion around costs
Of course, the final C is the Council (Teaching) who are once again consulting with the membership around their fees increase. While they are adamant that their costs are ‘actual and reasonable’ they appear unwilling to enter into a discussion as to actual or reasonable for what. As I said in my oral submission on behalf of PPTA, there is a big difference between the actual and reasonable costs of a Lockwood home compared to a Grand Designs one. Each will house a family though. Sadly, we seem to be being given little choice in what we are willing to pay for.