Something that Minister Parata has made a point of recently is how keen she is to raise the status of the teaching profession. From asking business audiences to ‘speak well of teachers’ to saying she wants teaching to be a top choice for graduates alongside medicine and law, she’s resisted opportunities to bag teachers (such as that provided by the recent NZ Initiative Report on maths) and stuck solidly to her line of ‘backing teachers to win’.
This is cause for some optimism in our bargaining for the secondary teachers’ collective agreement. The Minister is aware of the pay cut that secondary teachers have had over the last five years. She will know that as teacher pay gets closer to median pay rates (with other sectors’ earnings growing much faster than teachers’) that it becomes less and less desirable to become a teacher, or stay in teaching, particularly in subject areas like technology or science.
The Minister likes to be able to list things she’s doing to further her government’s policy objectives – and at the moment some of the ones to ‘raise the status’ of teaching look pretty weak.* I’m sure that she would love to be able to say, “This government values secondary teachers, and that’s why we’re ensuring that they don’t suffer a permanent pay cut as a result of the recession.”
Is this a sign?
The Minister may have to tough time to convince her Cabinet colleagues of this, but she can make a strong case that this government’s legacy in education can be a strengthened teaching profession, and this investment for the future is one that’s far more important than roads or fibre.
* Of course I’m aware that one of these, EDUCANZ, actually does the complete opposite. But the professed intention is to ‘raise the status’…