Teachers rally over education reforms

TAKING A STAND: Local teachers rally at the Church Steps on Saturday.
TAKING A STAND: Local teachers rally at the Church Steps on Saturday.

Teachers across the country rallied against education changes at the weekend.

The nationwide rallies were about raising awareness not protesting, a union representative said, but teachers were preparing to take industrial action next month.

About 200 people gathered at the top of Trafalgar St on Saturday to rally against a raft of proposed government policies which would, they say, undermine public education.

The national "day of action" was organised by the primary teachers' union, the New Zealand Educational Institute. Thousands gathered at similar public meetings around the country on Saturday.

NZEI South Island co-ordinator Kala Brown said it was about supporting quality public education and raising awareness about education reform that threatened that.

Motorists tooted in support of the 200 placard-wielding teaching staff, while pedestrians and shop owners stopped to ask what all the fuss was about, she said.

Miss Brown spoke alongside Nelson Central School principal Dr Paul Potaka at the Trafalgar St rally.

Teachers were feeling "cheated", Miss Brown said, after months of Novopay payroll difficulties, school closures and mergers, and discussion around charter schools.

She said it was important the public knew about the global education reform movement (Germ), which union members believed was threatening the quality of New Zealand's public education by placing emphasis on competition, data-based accountability, standardisation and choice instead of learning.

NZEI communications spokeswoman Debra Harrington said response to the rallies had been "better than expected".

"What I have heard is that everyone was quite overwhelmed," she said.

The biggest rallies were in Auckland and Wellington, she said, although people from smaller centres such as Te Awamutu and Great Barrier Island were also represented in the teachers' march against reform.

The NZEI, which represents 50,000 primary teachers, principals and support staff, is negotiating the terms of members' collective employment agreement with the Government.

Miss Brown said teachers were considering strike action next month if the Government had not made concessions.

The Nelson Mail