Briefing to the Incoming Minister

25 October 2017

‘Come visit any school and be a fly on the wall to see how much help our children need’

In early October, NZEI Te Riu Roa asked members to prioritise actions they wanted the incoming Government to take in education during its first 100 days. Nearly 2500 members responded in 48 hours, with 1200 including detailed comments about their views and concerns.  

The results show schools and ECE services are experiencing a perfect storm around the need for better funding and support for children with additional learning and/or behaviour needs.  This includes the cumulative impact of the nine year cap freezing Ministry specialist staffing numbers (psychologists, speech language therapists, early intervention teachers etc) leading to long wait times for assessment and insufficient support for individual children;  a contestable funding system creating insufficient funding for any but children with the most extreme needs;  no recognition or remuneration for teachers coordinating special needs (SENCOs); a lack of funding for enough teacher aide and support worker hours; a lack of professional development for teachers and teacher aides in terms of special needs and the pressures of assessing children with high needs against National Standards.

Our children go to school to learn the critical skills and abilities they'll need in the 21st century.  If we're serious about giving children the best education, it’s crucial that we continue to attract talented and inspiring people to teaching, not drive more teachers out of the profession.  For members working in schools, being better valued and better paid and having more time to focus on teaching and learning, including by scrapping National Standards, were among their top three priorities.  

Unsurprisingly, in addition to better funding for children with additional learning needs, Early Childhood Education teachers prioritised restoration of the 100% qualified and registered teacher target and restoration of ECE funding, which has been frozen since 2008.  Members working in secondary schools included job security for teacher aides and other school support staff through central funding of their roles.

Funding initiatives that make a difference for Māori and Pasifika students including resourcing for the recruitment, training and retention of teachers of Te Reo Māori and Pasifika languages to ensure there are more Kura Kaupapa Māori, and bilingual/immersion options was strongly supported.

Educators speak

I resigned at the end of Term 3. Low pay, National Standards and the sea of paper killed my desire to be in front of amazing children.

I am coping in a classroom with 28 Y3 children, with 3 of them being high need special needs. I know how to develop individual learning programmes and how to meet individual needs but I am one person. I can't simultaneously teach 28 different programmes alone - these children need support. I have lost my release time on numerous occasions last term (along with many of my colleagues) because we can't find relief teachers… there is a crisis, the government needs to make teaching more attractive to graduates and to make it a financially viable career for those living in Auckland.

As a Special Education Adviser, over the last decade our client numbers have increased significantly with much higher numbers of extremely complicated students, yet the staff in MoE School Focus and Early Intervention teams has reduced significantly. As a result, we are more stressed with unmanageable caseloads and high levels of burn out and staff turn-over. Schools are not coping with the high levels of special needs, families are frustrated and disillusioned and students with complex behaviours are being stood down in greater numbers. Schools feel punished for trying to be inclusive; it’s costly on school funds and senior management time. Reducing MoE Learning Support staff is not a successful strategy for anyone.

Corporatisation of ECE is leading to children being forgotten - the only questions we are asked are about money - saving money, spending money, that's all. The starting pay for ECE makes a mockery of the most current research regarding early development. $21.50 for certificate-holding teachers is a joke.

Scrap National Standards and the “GERM”

We want to rebuild high trust in teacher professionalism, and to roll back reforms that privilege standardisation, data driven accountability, competition and privatisation over a broad curriculum, qualitative and formative assessment for learning and individualised learning.

National Standards

National Standards have narrowed the curriculum, failed to lift student achievement, created over-assessment of young children, increased teacher workload and contributed to student disengagement from learning. They need to be scrapped and replaced with formative assessment for learning, support for e-portfolios for students showing learning progress and success, and national sampling studies to check system level performance.

First 100 days:

  • Remove requirements to report 2017 National Standards data to the Ministry of Education
  • Freeze funding for National Standards related development and support
  • Scrap the PaCT tool
  • Introduce amendments to the Education Act to scrap National Standards
  • Re-launch the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and prioritise professional learning for teachers to help them use them effectively

Educators speak

The amount of hours my colleagues and I have spent on recording and reporting National Standards data over the last year is ridiculous. Not only have these hours added nothing to my students' learning, I genuinely feel they've detracted from it. I haven't been able to provide for my students' learning needs to the extent I would've liked, because my days have simply been too full of paperwork. My students are 7 years old - I've had multiple parents tell me all they care about at this point is whether their child is listening, working hard, and getting along with others. Teachers' jobs are being needlessly overcomplicated with outside-of-the-classroom work and students are being negatively impacted as a result.

The many students who give up on themselves because they are labelled below or well below…

The mental health decline that I see in my students compared to when I first started teaching is heartbreaking. The way National Standards has been done has created a really bad culture.

Students who think they are dumb because they do not meet a standard – this is the worst thing for a teacher to see.

I lead a computer science group which includes students who are below some of the National Standards. The creativity and abilities shown by these students is amazing as they can creatively think about and solve a range of problems. They manage to create their own computer games from scratch and programme robots to do a wide range of things. All National Standards do for these kids is damage their confidence and dampen this creativity.

Having parents cry over National Standards even though their child has made progress. Parents know if their child is struggling. Children do not fit into a box - each has different strengths and needs.

Workload is extreme now - partly as a result of National Standards but now also driven by the need to accelerate learning - we are told this is Ministry driven. In our school we are spending most of our time on teaching very small bites, testing, recording, analysing, connecting with parents about progress with these 'little bites' on a daily and weekly basis. We are now measuring not only progress but acceleration. Teachers are overwhelmed and so are some of our learners who struggle to learn - made worse by the high pressure situations we are creating.

Initiatives that make a difference to Māori and Pasifika learners

First 100 days:

  • Agree a strategy with the sector for the recruitment, training and retention of teachers of Te Reo Māori and Pasifika languages, including the training of teachers already in the system
  • Commit to resourcing more Kura Kaupapa Māori and bilingual/immersion options in te reo and Pasifika languages
  • Upskilling teachers already in the system with some Te Reo Māori to greater fluency, to meet the goal of universal access for all learners

Budget 2018:

  • Fund the recruitment, training and retention of teachers of Te Reo Māori and Pasifika languages, including the training of teachers already in the system
  • Reinstate funding for bilingual resources in Pasifika languages

Educators speak

We know there is a lack of Te Reo Teachers or teachers who are competent in supporting Māori learners yet we do nothing other than introduce another strategy (Ka Hikitia etc). These are great but only the tip of the iceberg. Teachers need to have full confidence in Te Reo and Tikanga by attending a full immersion course where they can truly embrace our national language. Schools don't have the money to allow teachers paid release to attend a course like this which creates a barrier, and teachers are too tired to attend a daily course in their own time to build a real proficiency in Te Reo.

Christchurch area has a crisis in finding and keeping teachers with Reo. We have some great kura but ALL have the same issue. We need something as well as or much higher than the current MITA allowance and we need to have Māori medium positions tagged as hard to staff- they are!


The education system is underfunded and the cracks are starting to show.  The National Government’s fixation with applying social investment theory to funding education lacks any basis in evidence. We need to ensure we have sustainable funding for a universal public education system in the compulsory sector, and restore funding for early childhood education services that has been cut in real terms since 2010.

Budget 2018:

  • Include a significant funding jolt for the education sector, including school operational grants, ECE service funding and Learning Support
  • Review the effectiveness of TARG funding and remove it from any 2018 Budget process in the meantime.

Educators speak

We spend over half our school’s operational funding ($240k roughly) on providing support staff for children who need support. Our accounting firm tells me that this is not sustainable, which it is not, but we have to. We need better funding for increasingly complex kids, to provide people to help these kids!

The reinstatement of the 100% qualified teachers funding band is vital for those ECE services that have continued to offer 100% qualified teachers throughout the funding freeze. They have been running at a significant financial loss and their survival is down to the wire in many cases. We have seen far too many of our quality services close - we can't afford to lose any more.

ORS funding is ridiculous. Increases in funding never cover the increases in costs (e.g. teacher aide wage increases, specialist staff costs etc). This means that the pool of support for these children continues to shrink every year, despite an increase in demand. It just feels like everything is underfunded, and that what we could do for students is a faint hope. When I started in my current job we had two full speech therapists - we are now down to 1.2 FTE for over 100 children with high and very high ORS. The caseload is all complex, and the funding does not reflect this.

Learning support

Genuinely prioritising children with learning and behavioural needs helps all children achieve their potential. Schools and services are currently struggling with significant increases in the number and severity of behavioural and learning difficulties children are arriving with.

First 100 days:

  • Remove the staffing cap (freeze) on employment of Learning Support specialist staff (such as psychologists, speech language therapists and support workers)
  • Institute a moratorium on using Communities of Learning (CoL) and the creation of CoL Learning Support Facilitators staffed by current MoE service managers as the priority delivery mechanism for Learning Support 
  • Give children with mental health needs access to High Health Needs (HHN) funding immediately. 
  • Increase the notional hourly rate used for Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) and HHN funding – which has not changed in eight years - to $19.00 per hour so that the work and skills of people working with high needs children is valued properly. 

Budget 2018:

  • Commit to at least a 10 percent increase in resourcing for Learning Support in Budget 2018 to make up for nine years of a staffing freeze – we need a realistic level of specialist services to meet demand. 
  • Fund special needs coordinators (SENCOs) to meet the needs of every child in every school in Budget 2018 
  • Increase funding for ORS in Budget 2018 to meet actual need.

Educators speak

We are faced with huge wait lists of children awaiting support for speech and language issues. The staffing has been frozen for many years now. There is a recognized need around oral language and the Speech Language Therapists are being trained but no positions are being made available.

For the last three years I have had from three to six students with very high needs (either learning, behavioural or emotional). I had to fight to get help for these children one by one as funding is not available. Unnecessary delay caused by lengthy assessment processes prolongs children's pain and robs them of precious time which may be irretrievable in terms of their learning. We need realistic funding available for schools to make professional decisions about the needs of their students. We also need prompt access to psychological services. Waiting two terms is unacceptable.

So under-funded for special needs and so much paper work each year when these children's needs have not changed. Just a lot of wasted time with endless referrals...

I currently have a class of 23, in a decile 2 school of 9 year 2s and 14 year 3s. One student is a recent immigrant with little to no English. I have one student with ADHD and another who is autistic and requires some individualised interventions. I have a further 4 students with ELL funding as English is their second language. Two students have identified speech-language difficulties, but not severe enough to qualify for funding. One student (after 18 months on the waiting list) is finally being assessed by the Child Youth Development team this month. Six students have targeted funding for SEG. I have a total of 16 students on my special needs list. To support these students, I am afforded the luxury of having approximately 6 hours with a teacher aide.

It’s terrible it’s taken nearly three years for one of my students to be diagnosed on the Autistic Spectrum and this is with me having to push all the way. It’s hard to find the extra time to do this but somehow we do because we want the best for our kids!!

I have a class of 21 with an ORS funded non-verbal child, and two ASD children. I appreciate all the help my ORS student gets and the difference it makes to her learning. Our small rural school has battled to get any ongoing funding for the two ASD students whose needs have a huge impact on the learning of the other 18 five and six year olds I teach. Their ASD is not going to go away. So why do we do battle each term to get the resources we need to teach and meet the learning needs of all the students in the class?

Attract and retain great teachers

The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.  Valuing the teaching profession is part of valuing our children's learning and essential to attracting and retaining a talented and diverse teaching workforce.

First 100 days:

  • Write off the student loans of teachers who commit to placement in Auckland schools and other hard to staff areas for 3 years. 
  • Investigate making affordable housing for key public sector employees a priority in Auckland housing projects. 
  • Give teachers a democratic voice in their own professional body, the Education Council, by repealing relevant clauses in the Education Act. 
  • Recognise the value of teaching by scrapping legislation passed by the previous government that permits non-qualified people to act as teachers in charter schools and ECE
  • Ensure all teachers have professional training and induction - scrap the “in-school teacher training” clauses of the Education Act.

Budget 2018:

  • Fund a significant increase in teacher pay.
  • Improve ratios, with priority to years 4-8 and in low decile schools, by 2020 so that teachers have more time with children.  

Educators speak

As a second-year teacher reasonably fresh out of Uni, I know several highly capable young people who considered becoming teachers only to change their mind after discovering how much teachers get paid in relation to their work load. Why bother becoming a teacher when they could do "less-demanding" (their words) work for more money in another field? If we want our students to have the best teachers they possibly can, we need to make the choice to become a teacher more appealing.

The teacher crisis is real and the cause is too much workload and not enough time, while feeling undervalued and untrusted by the system. I am a new teacher nearing the end of my second year. I am also a parent of a young child and I will not be teaching next year due the high stress levels and feeling that I am becoming a distant parent due to the high levels of weekend and evening marking and planning. I shouldn't have to choose between my job and being a decent parent, especially not at the rate we are paid. I came into teaching because of a passion for young people's learning, empowerment and discovery. Now I see it is an endless schedule of assessments. It is depressing.

I am a beginning teacher (first year of teaching) with a huge $40k student loan... some of my friends working in retail and office jobs are making more than me with no student loan and have been making that for 3 years longer - they are working less hours, less stressful jobs, job finishes once they leave their workplace, not shaping the future. It's hard. This job is not for people who aren't passionate about it, that's for sure!

The burn out rate for young teachers is alarming. Their disillusionment with the broken system they are working with is high. So much time is spent on useless paperwork which takes away from the teaching/learning in the classroom. Under resourced schools are difficult places to work in, for teachers and children.

I'm one of the many teachers who are nearing the 5 year mark, looking at the older teachers around me and thinking to myself 'it doesn't get any easier as it goes on, and I'm already doing 50-70 for weeks. Why would I stay in teaching? The work load is ridiculous, the kids come with ever more baggage, I'm not respected by the government in terms of recognition of my professionalism nor the time, effort and money of my own that I put into my job now, why would I stay?’ I want a life and a lifestyle that doesn't involve endless stress and giving until you break.

As a third year teacher in my mid-twenties, I am finding my wage is not matching up with the number of hours I work a week. I am seriously considering other professions that could better support me and my partner in saving for a home. My partner is not yet qualified and is earning the same annual wage as I am being an electrical apprentice. What incentive is there for well educated, passionate and talented young people to enter into the teaching profession, when we could chose a high paying trade and still earn more in our years of training than fully registered teachers?

Fair pay: advancing pay equity

Support staff are one third of the education workforce and essential to the running of 21st century schools and services, and to supporting our most vulnerable learners, yet they and Ministry-employed support workers continue to be paid at little above the minimum wage and face job insecurity.  Early childhood staff continue to be paid inequitably as a result of historic gender discrimination.

First 100 days:

  • Settle a fair pay equity settlement for education support workers and progress pay equity for teacher aides and school administrative staff and early childhood staff
  • Begin development of a ten-year strategic plan to develop the support staff workforce.

Budget 2018:

  • Commit to the introduction of a Living Wage for all education sector workers by 2019 
  • Move to central funding of core support staff roles 
  • Make provision for a fair settlement of pay equity claims by support staff and ECE staff

Educators speak

It is pretty saddening being a solo mum, studying full time, working 25 hours in the school in careers as a support staff member having to take work home the load is that heavy, and having to work a second job to just make ends meet - the second job is bar tending. I get paid more per hour to pour people drinks than I do to help guide our youth down career pathways and open the world of possibilities to them. It isn't right.

It is very difficult to support myself and my family especially in a society where the price of living has increased dramatically but this is not been shown through our pay. I don't get paid through the holidays and I believe it is very unfair to ask me to put aside a large part of my life (Mon-Fri 8am - 3,30pm) with no job security at all. Having to go to WINZ during every term and Xmas holiday to ask for assistance like a food grant or rent arrears is depressing, degrading and detrimental to the wellbeing of not only my mental health but that of my family and the community that I serve.

Early childhood education

First 100 days

  • Reinstate the goal and a timeline for support and funding of 100% qualified and certificated teachers
  • Begin development of a second ten year strategic plan for the sector
  • Open Community of Learning roles to ECE teachers

Budget 2018

  • Commit to increasing the per child/per hour funding rate for ECE services
  • Ensure there is equal status between Kohanga Reo and ECE services

Educators speak

I find it very hard to even recommend people into this sector and profession. I spend a lot of my time after working 40 hours contact with children a week, completely mentally, physically and emotionally drained and this is very challenging. Especially when it comes to ratios, funding and support for all cultures and children with learning difficulties…. There hasn’t been one week for the last few years where I haven’t gone home and cried out of exhaustion or sheer frustration of the lack of support for some children and their families. Things need to change not only for children but for teachers too.

We have several children with special needs in my centre who need support and still don’t have it. Me and several other teachers have had hours cut due to funding cuts and now we struggle to make ends meet. Many of our children are hungry and we have to feed them and provide nappies so they can attend kindergarten so we need help with this. The minimum wage needs to increase to help families out.

We are a community based, not-for-profit early childhood centre and since the funding freeze and then the 100% qualified teacher cuts, it is a genuine question whether we will be able to open our doors year after year. We lose money every year. The bank will only let that go on for so long. Do we compromise on quality? Pass on costs to already struggling parents? We employ over 30 people and service over 200 families. We’re not asking for handouts, we’re asking you to invest in New Zealand’s future.

Communities of Learning

First 100 days

  • Announce a moratorium on further development of COLs in terms of demands and expectations
  • Make more flexible provision for roles and resourcing in existing and newly forming COLs, including through variation of sector collective agreements
  • Commit to equitable access for ECE teachers to roles and resourcing in CoLs
  • Support new roles that are resourced for support staff in COLs
  • Go back to the drawing board with the proposed re-design of Learning Support based on delivery through Learning Support Facilitators in CoLs

Budget 2018

  • Fund roles and resourcing for equitable ECE participation in CoLs
  • Provide for support staff roles and resourcing in CoLs in future

Charter Schools

Charter schools have failed to bring about significant improvement in students attending them, or to lift system performance.

First 100 days:

  • Introduce amendments to the Education Act to scrap charter schools
  • Begin integration process of currently approved charter schools as appropriate into the state system under the “special character” clauses in the Education Act

Budget 2018

  • Remove funding for charter schools from end 2018

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