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The principals of small primary schools are dismayed that they will continue to be paid less than many senior teachers under the government's latest pay offers.
One has described the offer to primary principals announced on Friday last week along with new offers to primary and secondary teachers as "a kick in the guts".
If accepted it would give principals at the roughly 500 schools with up to 100 students three pay rises of about 4.5 percent each, while principals at larger schools would receive three pay rises of 3 percent each.
By 2021, principals of schools with up to 50 students would earn between $95,296 and $105,180 depending on experience, and those at schools of up to 100 students would earn between $102,812 and $112,696.
Principals have told RNZ the proposed new salaries would still not be competitive because senior teachers were being offered $90,000 a year by 2021 and would also have access to multiple salary units of $4000 each.
The principal of 23-student Wharepapa South School in Waikato, Carol-Lynn Hill, said she was thrilled with the offer to primary teachers, but the offer to principals was "gutting" because teachers with management units would still be able to earn more than a principal.
"I believe it's really unfair that a teacher with you know, small leadership units, can be on more salary than I am when I feel like I have the ultimate responsibility.
"So it's kind of a real kick in the guts."
Miss Hill said two years ago she was earning more as a classroom teacher with four management units than she was earning now as a principal and she had hoped the anomaly would be addressed in the new pay offers.
She said she worried it would become even harder to recruit principals to run small schools.
"They're going to be very hard to fill because what teacher as a career path will go onto principalship knowing that they're going to take a pay cut," she said.
Rosemary Hendrikse at Manawarū School near Te Aroha said it was clear when the offers were made public on Friday that principals were not looking at a good deal.
"When I looked at what the principals were offered it was almost like there was a page missing, it appeared that we were very much coming off second-best. Then when the numbers started being tossed around where the DPs [deputy principals] were going to be earning more than the principals, it started to look a little bit more serious."
Ms Hendrikse said a lot of principals were unhappy and she hoped they would refuse the government's offer.
"It needs another look because it's not sustainable for the principal to be earning less than the DP for the next three years."
Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick said running a small school was a hard job and pay rates should be a lot better.
"It is tough and you're expected to be the teacher, you're expected to be the principal and also to engage in a positive way with your community," he said.
"Principals of small schools are the backbone of our country and they do an amazing job so I think some acknowledgement needs to be made."
The president of the Educational Institute, Lynda Stuart said pay relativity between principals of small schools and senior staff in large schools was a long-standing issue.
"Our members will look at the offer and the accord and the terms of settlement and really interrogate if it makes the difference that is needed," she said.
"What we've said the whole way through this campaign is that members will make the decisions."