Thousands march to support teachers

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For the children . . . Elmgrove School teacher Wendy Ryalls and her granddaughter, Kaikorai Valley College pupil Summer Moses (15), get set to march in central Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

More than 2000 people marched in central Dunedin yesterday as teachers across New Zealand went on strike for better pay and conditions.

Dunedin faced a day of disruption as teachers walked out on more than 17,000 pupils at nearly 70 schools across the city.

Teachers, parents and pupils marched from the University of Otago Dental School in Great King St to the Octagon from noon.

Marchers’ chants included “What do we want? Time. When do we need it? Now!”, “Teachers fight back, education is under attack,” and “Teacher burnout brought this turnout” sparking scores of shoppers and retail staff to walk out to the footpath to watch.

Tahuna Normal Intermediate teacher Liza Whitson said she marched yesterday because she wanted the Government to “value the profession, value the kids and their needs”.

“It’s not rocket science – it’s one word – value.”

Tainui School teacher Shelley Wilde said she was striking because she wanted more time to do her job effectively, as more children were in need of a greater range of support.

Corbin Silby (7), of Dunedin, said he marched to “send a message to the Government to give more money to the schools”.

Elmgrove School teacher Wendy Ryalls said she was striking to get the Government to think about how schools needed to be resourced. The strike was not about the money, she said.

“It’s about the children getting the help they need.”

The ministry has offered pay rises of 3% a year for three years, and an extra step at the top of the salary scales, to both the Post Primary Teachers’ Association and the primary teachers’ union, the NZ Educational Institute. It says the offer would cost taxpayers $1.2billion over four years. But members of both unions have rejected the offer because the ministry has not offered anything to relieve teachers’ workloads by providing more classroom release time.

The NZEI is also unhappy with the pay offer because primary teachers’ pay has fallen about 3% behind secondary teachers’ pay due to the timing of the two collective agreements.

The union wants to restore “pay parity” for all teachers – a principle won through repeated strikes in the 1990s.