Northland primary teachers 'bearing the brunt' of social issues

By Raniera Harrison
  • Northland

The chairman of Te Tai Tokerau Principals Association says many Northland primary school teachers are being 'forced' into pastoral care roles dealing with situations stemming from social problems at school such as drugs, and domestic violence.

Northland primary school teachers are taking to the streets to make their point loud and clear.

"I just hope that the government listens to all the kaiako around the motu and that they hear our cry- because we're crying, we're crying for help," says Neke Adams, who is a teacher in Whangārei Intermediate School's bilingual unit, Te Whānau o Waimirirangi.

Whangārei was one of many centres nationwide bought to a standstill today, with primary school teachers taking to the streets in protest for better pay conditions.

"That's what our system is doing.  We're writing those children off.  What the government is saying- and it's not the only government, it's not just Labour- this has gone on for damn years.  What they are saying is those children don't matter," says Pat Newman, chair of Te Tai Tokerau Principals Association, and principal of Horahora School.

Newman says that the extra pastoral roles that teachers face in predominantly low-decile, low-socio economic areas in Northland warrants the pay rise. 

"My teachers are absolutely knackered because we've got that many high-end behavioural children up here, and it's not just Horahora School- we've identified over 1,000 last year."

The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) - Te Riu Roa say that 20% of teachers nationwide are aged 60 or over and in 2023, will be of retirement age- which they say is dangerous territory for the profession.

"We're in a crisis.  There's a teacher shortage, we've not got a lot of people who are coming in to our profession" says Whangārei branch President, Delwyn Baird.

Nationwide, NZEI Te Riu Roa are claiming a $296mil, 16 percent pay rise over two years.  A "price-jolt" one Northland principal says is long overdue.

Principal of Portland Primary School, Jodi Edwards says, "We need more support, we need to be recognised, we need those agencies on the ground in our schools and supporting us and our whānau."

According to these teachers, and NZEI - Te Riu Roa, they are not ruling out further strike action which may go over two days.