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Why school teachers are on strike

March 16, 2023

Interview by Jessica Hopkins, adapted by Georgi Stirling

At least 50,000 teachers went on strike in Tāmaki Makaurau and across the motu on Thursday, 16 March, the education sector’s biggest industrial action since 2019. Photo by the New Zealand Educational Institute.

Listen to the full interview

Teachers and principals across kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools and kura went on strike today, calling for better working conditions and pay, to improve the state of public education for tamariki.

The strikes were only the second time primary and secondary school teachers have walked off the job on the same day and the first time kindergarten teachers have joined them.

Mark Potter, President of the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), told Jessica Hopkins on 95bFM’s The Wire that teachers' pay is not on par with other similarly qualified professions, and their working conditions showed no sign of improvement. 

“If we don't have these asks addressed, we are going to struggle to attract and retain teachers, and we will not be able to provide the quality education that our children need.”

Acting president of the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA), Chris Abercrombie, told The Wire that secondary school teachers are also striking due to poor pay and working conditions. 

Abercrombie said they want to make sure that the needs of both teachers and students are met, and they believe the government’s latest collective agreement offer is not enough.

“We are absolutely in a crisis. We are in a staffing crisis. We are in an educational crisis. This is about making the government listen to us and making sure they are hearing what we are saying.”

According to Abercrombie, currently there is no guarantee that students will be taught by subject qualified teachers in secondary schools.

Recruitment and retainment of experienced teachers has been an ongoing concern for schools in Aotearoa, as poor pay and working conditions have led individuals to take their expertise elsewhere. 

Maddy, an intermediate teacher, told The Wire that as class sizes continue to grow, it has become increasingly difficult for teachers to manage unique learning needs in their classrooms. 

She hoped that the government would take on board what teachers are asking for to improve the sector. 

“It's important for teachers to show unity as a group and show that we don't think the government’s offer to teachers is acceptable.”

Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air