Otago principals threaten strike action

Tony Hunter.
Tony Hunter.
Principals at Otago's four intermediate schools are threatening strike action if the Government continues with its Budget 2012 plans to eliminate technology teachers from New Zealand schools.

The Otago Primary Principals' Association (OPPA) is also considering industrial action to highlight their concerns about teacher to pupil ratios.

In the Budget, the Government cut the majority of teacher to pupil ratios from 1:29 to 1:27.5, eliminating the technology teacher ratio of 1:120.

As part of the changes to the ratios, technology staffing for years 7 and 8 learners is incorporated into the years 2 to 10 curriculum staffing ratios for English-medium schools, and in the years 7 to 8 staffing ratio for Maori-medium schools.

Tahuna Normal Intermediate principal Tony Hunter said intermediate schools were united by the Government's action.

"We feel we must act. The level of feeling within school communities and the feedback that we have received, means that we couldn't discount the possibility of industrial action.

"Ultimately, this is an assault on the broadness and richness of the curriculum.

"We have a world-class education system that has been undermined by decisions such as this.

"This decision doesn't recognise the value of technology, creative thinking, problem solving and excitement of learning."

Changes to class sizes have also angered the OPPA. President Brent Caldwell said professionals within the system had quickly recognised the risk to pupils, particularly those in years 2 to 9, and it was good to see parents and boards of trustees were also voicing their concerns.

He said teachers and principals now had an opportunity to demonstrate their concerns at the short-sightedness of "this penny-pinching policy".

Balmacewen Intermediate principal Andrew Hunter said that parents and pupils felt betrayed by the changes.

"This will hurt children's right to experience and learn key technological skills that will affect their future opportunities.

"This decision is arrogant and short-sighted."

Dunedin North Intermediate principal Ross Leach said the Government's push for a highly skilled, knowledge-based economy would be "doomed to fail" if schools took away the opportunities for children to develop these important skills.

Oamaru Intermediate principal Mary Healey hoped school communities, industry and trades would foresee the potential impact of the changes, and support schools in their bid to halt the changes.

Rochelle Simmons, a parent of an intermediate pupil, was also concerned about the long-term repercussions of the changes.

Generations of children - present and future - would miss out on technology education, she said.

"It's terrible to think that a generation of children will be disadvantaged by such a blinkered Budget decision, which will have a detrimental effect on their career choices, as well as leisure activities."

Balmacewen Intermediate board of trustees chairman Geoff Ockwell said the situation would put boards in a position where they became "executioners" and would have to do "the dirty work" in cutting staffing numbers.

"There has been no consultation and it is a policy we totally disagree with.

"It is disingenuous of the Government to say it is up to boards and school communities to make decisions about technology staffing, when the ministry has handed us a fait accompli."

Dunedin's intermediate school principals met Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran yesterday to express their concerns.

Ms Curran and Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark are throwing their weight behind Dunedin's three intermediate schools which face losing nine technology teaching jobs under the Government's plans.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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