Amesbury School

Kia ora koutou

Welcome back to term 3. It has been lovely to see all our smiling tamariki (children) back. Oh and of course a very warm welcome back to Urs, from her sabbatical term of studies and travel. She flew back to the Wellington winter from a Spanish summer! All teachers seem to have had a relaxing break and arrived back at school last Tuesday for two teacher-only days followed by planning and preparation for the new term. We are so lucky to have such a committed team of teachers who want to be well prepared for their students.

An interesting term coming up – teachers are very excited about this term’s inquiry which includes a study of the film Wall-E to support an exploration of The Arts. In preparation for this, teachers have been doing a film study of The Book Thief. We held off turning on the lights at the end of watching the movie because most of us were in tears and needed time to compose ourselves. What a wonderful film! The book is even better. If you haven’t already seen it, I strongly suggest you do. Yesterday at staff meeting, we explored the positive impacts on Liesel Meminger’s life (the main character) and we are going to use this to explore the “gestures” that teachers make that can positively impact students’ lives. Actually, there is lots in this film that is relevant to parenting too. So have a look.

The plan to strike is, of course, taking centre stage at the moment. A half day strike has already been agreed to by members for the afternoon of 15 August. However, there has been a strong push from many members for a full day strike. As a result, an online secret ballot opened this morning and members of NZEI are being asked to vote whether to strike for a full day rather than just the half day. The ballot closes early next week. In the meantime, Collective Agreement negotiations with the Ministry are continuing. The Board of Trustees discussed a plan for the eventuality that a strike might go ahead and the Board Chair will send out communications to you shortly. They are committed to ensuring that you know the contingency plan as soon as possible so that you can make any necessary arrangements.

The media has made the “strike” issue about teachers’ pay. However, the really big issue is teachers’ workload. I have begun mapping out the different aspects of our teachers’ work and it creates a very complex picture of significant overwork every week to keep up with the preparation, feedback etc. for the amount of teaching they are required to do, and then on top of that huge peaks of massive overwork at the beginning of the term and the end of the term (50 – 70 hours to prepare reports on top of a minimum 53 plus hour teaching and preparation week, at the end of term 2 and 4, for example). Teachers collapse into the “holidays” absolutely exhausted for a week and then they are hit with a huge amount of work to prepare for the next term. This is the situation for basic scale A teachers. Management and leadership responsibilities sit on top of that. Secondary Schools are resourced with release time to accompany each management unit. Primary Schools are not. We are simply expected to add more work on top as we move up the career pathway. This might be a “leftover” from a time when primary teachers’ work was simpler. But those times are long gone, if they ever really existed. The inequity is considerable!

The Board began a quite robust discussion about our teachers’ workload at its meeting last night. This will need to be an ongoing discussion because there is no simple solution and it will require trying to look right outside the square for solutions. More pay certainly is not the answer, but greater recognition of the complexity of a teachers’ job today is necessary.

Sorry to begin the term with such a “heavy” topic. But it is imperative that we discuss this openly and robustly. Solutions have to be found. There is no question that the current situation in education is not sustainable.

Anyway, nice to have you back and here’s to a great term.

Nga mihi nui


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