Teachers ‘to gather’ outside MP’s office

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North Otago primary school teachers are to gather outside Waitaki MPJacqui Dean’s office tomorrow morning to show their disapproval of the government’s Investing in Educational Success policy.

John Prescott, president of the North Otago Principals’ Association, said he was referring to Friday as not being a protest but a gathering which was part of a nationwide campaign to let the Government know that funding earmarked for this initiative could be better used to more directly benefit students.

Mr Prescott hoped that every primary school in North Otago would have a representative present at Friday’s meeting which was scheduled to take place from 7.30-8am.

Letters had been sent from the New Zealand Educational Institute, the country’s largest education sector union, to government ministers informing them of the gatherings, he said, however it was unknown if Mrs Dean would be attending in Oamaru. Mrs Dean could not be reached for comment.

The $360 million IES policy involves setting up a new management structure within groups of schools to facilitate information sharing. These school communities would be led by an executive principal and expert teachers with the aim being to increase student achievement. Two further positions, a lead teacher and a change principal, would also be created.

Mr Prescott said while high schools have shown their support for the initiative, the structure of primary schools was ‘very, very different’ and practical issues like finding relief teachers to replace those helping other schools, and the distance between rural primary schools would be an issue.

“What’s disappointing me personally is that there are politicians saying this is a political stunt and if they’re saying that then they really don’t understand why we’re teaching.”

There were four areas, he said, that primary schools would like to see better funded and which would make a difference to student achievement. These were smaller classes, 100 percent quality teaching in early childhood (fully-trained staff), more support given to children in the ‘middle needs’ group with a shorter response time between preliminary and assessed support, and lastly, sustainable funding for support staff.

“They say that we have been part of the negotiations, we haven’t.”

“We were told, this is what is going to happen.”

“I would challenge the next government to sit down and listen to principals to hear what they have to say.”

By LINDA MCCARTHY