We are better together
SPC chair James Morris is presented with a pounamu for his services to principals at the Te Waipounamu branch of PPTA annual conference.
The Secondary Principals Council is the representative group for principals who belong to PPTA. There are representatives from each of the 12 PPTA areas as well as women principals, Māori principals, and Area School principals.
This broad coverage enables us to advocate with a good level of confidence for the principals we represent. We are part of PPTA but also have leeway to have an independent voice.
Including and supporting each other
The benefit of being together as principals as part of PPTA is that our advocacy and comments are made with care to include and support each other. It would be easy to retreat to a them and us, management/worker, principal/teacher dichotomy when issues arise - both nationally and within schools. However, our commitment to our shared goals means that we will always look for an integrated approach.
During the last collective negotiations for example, although industrial action is challenging and potentially divisive; SPC was focused on speaking in support of the need for teacher supply and good salaries to enable this to happen. This voice helped with the significant community support that teachers had throughout the negotiations.
Our voice is stronger and more persuasive
I believe it is important that principals are members of PPTA. Our voice as a union on education sector issues is stronger and more persuasive when we can speak on behalf of both principals and teachers.
I have been a teacher and active member of PPTA for 27 years. As such my support for the aims and aspirations of PPTA run deep. This is not necessarily the perspective of all of principals.
I can understand why some find it difficult to be a principal and a PPTA member. As a senior leader you can quickly feel as if you are one of the ‘them’. In particular when doing the employer role – conduct, discipline, collective agreement provisions, workload, timetabling. There will always be conflict where there is competition to allocate limited resources. The resources most schools are allocated is less that the job our communities expect us to do. As such the more effectively we work together the better the outcomes for our students.
As I have expressed – we are better together.
Joint response to Covid-19
A good example of where a well-connected system working together can have positive impacts is our response to Covid-19 lockdowns. We were able to work together, at pace, to support learners and each other.
Recognising that everybody’s experience was different: what did we learn or were reminded of about our profession?
- In a crisis we get stuck in and do what is needed. At short notice we quickly transitioned to an online system and did what we could to continue learning and pastoral support.
- The work of schools and teachers is important and valued. Parents who now had to homeschool their children quickly came to this realization.
- Electronic tools such as Zoom and Google Classroom present great opportunities for how we structure learning but they do not replace the centrality of the ‘human’ in teaching or the ‘art’ of teaching.
- Wellbeing is a core priority – being kind. Interesting we needed a crisis to remind us of this
- NCEA can be changed and world keeps turning. I saw excellent advice and feedback from PPTA members feed directly into some good decisions with NCEA.
- There are limits to our capacity – by the end of term 2 we were all tired and the wheels were getting wobbly. We all needed the term break.
The collapse of international education
The Covid crisis also brings challenges of how best to approach the collapse of international education. Each school’s ability to benefit from international students is particularly uneven, often depending on things they do not control such as location and decile.
Many (if not most) schools have not put aside resources to cover the sudden loss of income. The job losses that are likely to occur in some schools are to PPTA members and we must support them where we can.
While the collective agreement has processes and conditions to support potential job losses the PPTA rightly advocates for government support.
We must also recognize the inequity that international education brings to our already uneven system. Not that international education is necessarily the problem however we must continue to work to support students and schools that don’t have the same access or opportunities for their learners.
Whakapuputia mai o Manuka, kia kore ai e whati.
Cluster the branches of the Manuka,so that they will not break.