Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Some lessons to be learned

I left school last century with a vague plan to become a physical education teacher.

It sounded about right to me and to the people who knew me and had asked me what I was going to do at the end of my secondary schooling. I went to university with that plan in mind and enrolled in the appropriate papers. About 15 minutes into my plan and at the start of the contrarily named ‘orientation’ week, I stumbled across Radio Bossom. Plan A went out the window and plan B came into effect.

Oh to be young and carefree.

There have been more than a few times in the past 35 years that I have reflected on that time and come to the conclusion that I may have dodged a bullet. While media has been no picnic, particularly during the widespread changes during the digital technology revolution, it hasn’t been anywhere near as stressful as being a teacher. At least, not from my observations.

Teachers around New Zealand are scheduled to go on strike on Thursday. The industrial action is, I assume, a last resort.

As is often the case in talks about pay and conditions with a national organisation and a government ministry, there is plenty of contradictory statements from both camps. While one side of the table maintains the offer is fair and reasonable, the other side of the table says the offer has them going backwards, if inflation is calculated into the mix.

The teachers union has made this point: Compared to a teacher in 2017, and factoring for inflation, a teacher at the end of 2024 will be more than 17 per cent worse off in terms of income. The Ministry will have a different view, no doubt.

I have chatted with a few teachers recently and one particular theme was constant … there are nowhere near enough resources in our schools.

Some students need near fulltime support in the classroom, and while teachers do the best they can, this means that other students are missing out.

Schools cannot find relief teachers. Thus, many teachers are overwhelmed, physically and mentally. Some are breaking down and crying at the end of the day. Not surprisingly, teachers are leaving the profession and their schools have no immediate replacement options open to them.

Some classrooms started the 2023 school year with 30 or more students in a room.

The University of Auckland, if the figures are to be believed, had a 2023 intake of fewer than 40 students in the Bachelor of Education course. This means that in three years’ time, if none drop out [which is highly unlikely], the course will produce what might be the lowest-ever amount of trained teachers in one year.

I wonder if all involved in the education sector might cast their minds back to the highly stressful lockdowns during covid in the past two years or so. I cannot think of a single parent who declared that distance learning was a breeze. Quite the opposite, some parents said it was a nightmare.

We want our schools and our students to thrive. A properly resourced education sector should be the starting point.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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