Amesbury School

Kia ora koutou

Well, here we are close to the end of yet another term.

We received exciting news last week with the Minister’s announcement of funding for the expansion of Amesbury School with an additional 200 student spaces. Though little is known at this point in time, we do know that the Ministry is in the process of organising a Delivery Manager for the contract and we should meet with that person within the next few weeks to find out more about the building process. Things are getting underway more quickly than I expected. In the meantime, we are doing lots of dreaming about all the things we would like as part of the build. We have some ideas that will require very snazzy (far too expensive, I imagine) engineering. Students and parents, as well as teachers, will have an opportunity to contribute to this “wishlist”. However, the reality is that we will, no doubt, be significantly constrained by the budget that is allocated. However, by thinking outside the box and thinking innovatively, hopefully, we might be able to get more for our money than we might otherwise do. We will be in touch early next term to give you an opportunity to contribute to the “wishlist”.

The school reports will be out next week. Our teachers are working unbelievably hard to prepare them. Yesterday, I was talking to a group of teachers to ascertain how many hours they had put into getting the reports ready (50 - 60 hours per teacher, as it turns out), and a student was standing there patiently waiting for attention from one of the teachers and listening to this conversation. His eyes got bigger and bigger, and after we’d finished talking, he said, “I had no idea teachers had to do all that work!” On the report there are information boxes, which do contain lots of information. However, although the amount of writing might be daunting or unwelcome, I do suggest you read it carefully, because it will help you to understand the achievement information you are receiving. It will answer some of the questions you have. Also, if you would like the information translated into Mandarin, please do speak to Zoe.

Finally, it is interesting and unstable times in education at the moment. Currently Paid Union Meetings are taking place all over New Zealand to consider the pay offers made to principals and teachers. It seems likely that teachers will not accept their pay offer. I am not sure what the general feeling is from principals. Most of our teachers will be attending a PUM tomorrow and so will I. Personally, at this point in time, my feeling is that we should not accept the pay offer - not so much because of the level of pay that is being offered, but because we don’t really know what the offer means. I understand that the Government only has so much money to solve the many problems it is currently facing and that we all need to be patient. However, I think that teachers do need to know what this pay offer is signalling in terms of the government’s commitment to the profession. Is this the start of a long term plan to pay teachers what they are worth and we just need to be patient in the short term, or is there some other intent? We simply don’t know.

It has become increasingly clear that teachers are hugely overworked and yet in the pay offer the Ministry only offered an additional 12 minutes release from classroom duties per week. If the offer is accepted, teachers will get 1 hour and 12 minutes release per week. Secondary teachers currently receive about 5 hours release per week. I wrote to the Minister and asked what this provision of 12 minutes release means. Does it mean teachers don’t need more release? Is it an acknowledgement that teachers do need more release but that the Government cannot afford it at this time? Does it signal a commitment to increase the amount of release over time?

The fact is, we don’t know what this pay offer means. A few weeks ago, in an interview, when asked about the pay negotiations with teachers, the first thing the Minister said to the interviewer was, “Well, teachers don’t do it for the money”. From my perspective, that is an inappropriate response. It may well be true by people in “caring” professions should not simply be expected to work for less because they care. Here is my response to the Minister, which is a little harder hitting than my usual articles. However, I think it makes an important point. My hope is that we can all be “adult” about this and work towards a solution that works for all.

Just to forewarn you, there is every likelihood that there will be a Stop Work Meeting on the afternoon of the 15th August. We trust that you will support your hard working teachers to at least get a commitment from the government to revitalise the teaching profession, even if it is over the long term.

Nga mihi nui


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