So what if they bust the union?

I was having a little thought last night after glancing over yet further nonsensical gibberish being offered up as justification by the right-wing blogs for their beloved charter school experiment.

I was thinking… what do they ultimately want out of all their reforms?

It’s not about, to use Hekia-speak, improving educational outcomes for young kiwi learners. If it was then government policy would be aimed at dealing with child poverty, lifting pay and conditions for support staff, increasing funding for successful programmes like Reading Recovery and other special education programmes, and ensuring that kids who attend schools are learning with food in their stomachs.

As we all know, the realities of this reform programme, being led by billionaire “philanthropists” and the many politicians who accept their generous donations, we are currently undergoing a reform that is about deunionising and deprofessionalising our profession to create, as they have done in many other industries (see forestry), a low-wage, low value “profession”.

Let’s head back to my brain meanderings and think about this: so what if they completely bust the NZEI and the PPTA?

Ultimately busting our union will lead to poorer working conditions for teachers – teachers who are already overworked and underpaid. Fantastic teachers leave the profession all the time at the moment because of this very problem. Why get all the stress and hassle of paperwork and national standards on top of teaching a class full-time when you’re really not getting the reward.

Male teachers find this decision much easier and leave the profession much earlier than their female counterparts. We aren’t made of strong stuff (just ask my wife when I have man ‘flu). I imagine many of my female colleagues will think twice about returning to the fray following motherhood and many relaxing family years imparting their wisdom on just one or two children.

Busting the unions, although such a tempting past-time for the “centre-right” politicians, ultimately leads to a less qualified, more poorly equipped workforce. Although it might make sense financially, pedagogically speaking it’s stupid. Of course, all of us in this “profession” realise and understand that devaluing teaching will lead to the exact opposite of improved educational outcomes for young kiwi learners.

It will mean a less diverse profession. Those from different walks of life that currently make teaching so rich for our children will be less likely to join us if they don’t see it as attractive – long hours, incessant paperwork, box ticking for the ministry – all for very little reward than any other job with the same level of experience and expertise.

Ultimately it will be our children who will lose out as their education migrates from the current curriculum to the curriculum that makes sure all our children can pass tests.

Mind you… it could be worse. We could all be working in a system filled with government-appointed managers ensuring we fill out the right paperwork, complete our National Standards on time and generally tow the National Party line.


Mr B


Schools already rewarding ‘expert’ teacher roles: NZ Herald, Jan 25, 2014.

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