This section of the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association / Te Wehengarua (PPTA) annual report for the 2012 - 2013 year provides an overview of PPTA membership activities over the year.
The heart of the union lies in membership activities, nationally, regionally and in the branch.
Nationally-based Membership Activities
These are difficult times to be a teacher and even more difficult times to be a member of a teachers' union. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, secondary teachers remain immensely loyal to PPTA and membership levels over the last year remain as high as ever.
PPTA Annual Conference
The annual conference held at the end of September is the supreme decision-making body in the Association. In 2012, annual conference considered papers on:
At the conference, delegates heard the truth about charter schools in New Orleans from Karran Harper-Royal whose presentation was entitled From New Orleans to New Zealand with love: a warning about disaster capitalism. They were also inspired by a presentation from Finnish educationalist Pasi Sahlberg. He attributed Finland’s success to the focus on collaboration over competition, professionalism over bureaucracy and equity over choice.
Māori Teachers’ Conference
Around 180 participants attended the annual Māori Teachers’ Conference held in Rotorua in July 2012. The theme was “Kia tutuki aku moemoea/Maori achieving as Maori – our visions and dreams”.
PPTA Service Awards
PPTA service awards are an initiative designed to recognise significant contributions members or former members have made to fellow members and the association through their activism and commitment.
The 2012 recipients were:
Brian Harrison1 (Waihi College), Clement Pinto (Ex-Wairoa College), Colin Mackey (Whangarei Boys’ High School), Jan Torrey (Karamu High School), Jane Goodacre (Flaxmere College), Pine Campbell (Fairfield College), Stuart King (James Cook High School) Trevor Williams (Taita College).
Regional and Branch Activities
High levels of union activism require training and support and, as an education union, PPTA takes this very seriously. We begin the year with a training session for some 200 regional officers at the Issues and Organising Seminar in Wellington. One day is given over to specific training for the roles of treasurer, secretary, te reo-a-rohe, regional women’s coordinators and regional chairs. Young and new teachers, now referred to as NETs (New and Establishing Teachers), also hold a training day. The next two days are given over to workshops and speakers on a range of professional and industrial topics.
Regional Chairs meet during annual conference and if required may meet for a day during the year. This was not deemed necessary in 2013. Regional women’s coordinators caucus at annual conference and follow-up with a meeting towards the end of the year.
Support for Members in Christchurch
For teachers in Christchurch the 2012 year was dominated by the public announcement on 13th September 2012 of a plan to (in the minister's own words) "consolidate, rejuvenate and restore" forty schools. In reality the plan involved a large number of school closures and mergers which appeared to have taken little account of the needs of the community. The public backlash was such that the plan and the timeline had to be re-visited.
PPTA made submissions on the reorganisation plan in May 2012 and again in December 2012. The group charged with drawing up proposals on behalf of Christchurch members was the PPTA Earthquake Recovery Taskforce which is now in its second year of operation. It has continued to consult with, and advocate on behalf of, members as well as networking with various ministry officials and education stakeholders.
The revised decisions on the future of schools in Christchurch were announced by the minister at the end of May 2013 - this time with considerably less fanfare. Aranui High School is set to become an area school but with an entirely rebuilt campus. Regrettably (but predictably) this will be developed as a PPP. Linwood, Hornby and Hillmorton which are currently year 9 to 13 schools will become year 7 to 13 schools. The group of PPTA members who have been most negatively affected by the decision are those teaching technology in year 7 to 8 as a number of those schools are facing closure.
Charter School for Christchurch?
PPTA sponsored a visit from Hurricane Katrina survivor and public education advocate, Karran Harper-Royal to Christchurch where she spoke to locals about "disaster capitalism" the name given to the rampant privatisation that sometimes follows national disasters. Politicians have been given a clear message that a charter school will not be welcome in Christchurch.
Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu – The Correspondence School
While schools throughout the country struggled with the payroll problems resulting from Novopay’s failed software, members at Te Kura struggled with another form of software failure, an inadequate Student Management System (SMS). The $12 million system proved time-consuming and clumsy to use and resulted in delays for students. PPTA is supporting members in their efforts to get the issues addressed.
The prime mechanism for membership training is through our Mahi Tika employment relations education programme. A core three-stage course, Building Productive Employment Relationships (otherwise known as Mahi Tika 1, 2 and 3) is offered annually, as are targeted courses for provisionally registered teachers, staff representatives on boards of trustees, Pasifika teachers, regional officers and the PPTA Executive. This year a decision was made by the Executive to meet most of the costs associated with the programme, which shows a solid commitment to the union’s internal member education programme. The courses were delivered across the country by the Field Officers and Te Mataroa.
In addition, this year, three Health and Safety courses will run over term four, also delivered by a Field Officer.
Mahi Tika – PPTA's Employment Relations Education
As of July, more than 100 members had taken part in our Mahi Tika programme in 2013. While this is still an achievement, it does show a decline in participation from previous years. Evidence suggests that members who have completed the Mahi Tika programme are more likely to be actively involved at all levels of PPTA and are more effective at representing members’ interests in the workplace. The courses continue to be frequently updated by the Field Officers and continue to produce positive feedback from the course participants through the evaluation forms.
Health and Safety
As a result of government cuts to funding for the health and safety courses, previously run by the CTU, PPTA had to consider how to deliver its own health and safety training for the first time in many years. One of the field officers became a trained and certified course deliverer enabling PPTA to build and offer its own stage one programme for members with a focus on the school as a workplace. The success of this exercise was pleasingly recognised by an industry award for employee engagement at the ninth Annual Safeguard Health and Safety Awards held in May 2013.
While, there has been a good take-up of courses, with only 138 trained representatives, from 300 branches, there is still much to do.
PPTA has developed a health and safety guide to provide members with all the advice and assistance they need.
PPTA submission to Independent Taskforce into Health and Safety
PPTA made a submission to the Independent Taskforce into Health and Safety in New Zealand arguing that more funding is needed for the training of secondary teachers to become health and safety representatives. While health and safety is left to the vagaries of the over-stretched operations grant, it will not be seen as a priority for schools. The Taskforce reported back in June 2013. The report proposed a complete culture shift around health and safety in the workplace requiring everyone taking greater responsibility for the well-being of employees. There will be new legislation and a new government department, Worksafe New Zealand, established.
1. Awarded posthumously