PPTA Protect their Patch, Students Suffer.

The PPTA have protected their patch by taking Teach First to court. They were successful in their mission to have the student teachers ruled illegal and now schools have lost valuable, educated staff in their classrooms. The Teach First student teachers have been praised by parents and principals for their contributions and schools are dismayed that the groundbreaking teacher training programme has been destroyed by the PPTA’s actions.

LAWRENCE SMITH / FAIRFAX NZ Matt Dadley and Antonia McBryde did their Teach First placements at schools in Mangere and Whangarei, where their contribution was praised by parents and principals.

LAWRENCE SMITH / FAIRFAX NZ
Matt Dadley and Antonia McBryde did their Teach First placements at schools in Mangere and Whangarei, where their contribution was praised by parents and principals.

School principals’ plans for next year have been thrown into disarray as a groundbreaking teacher training programme is ruled illegal.

The scheme enables high-achieving university graduates to do an intensive, six-week course before they start work in low decile schools, training on the job for two years. Principals and parents have praised the scheme but the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) filed a legal challenge.

The Employment Relations Authority ruled teacher graduates were illegally appointed to jobs through the government-funded Teach First New Zealand programme, disadvantaging qualified teachers who were excluded from the roles.

The Government has committed $6.4 million over four years to the programme, about to start training it’s third batch of graduates, but the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) filed a legal challenge.

The 50 or so teachers already posted to schools face uncertainty over future employment and it’s unclear if the future teaching posts of graduates about to start their six-week course will be suspended while the Ministry of Education and Teach First resolve the issues.

Northland College principal Jim Luders, one of 20 school heads to file affidavits in support of the trainee teachers, said he was “deeply disappointed” in the PPTA for taking the action.

“Every single Teach First candidate we’ve had has just been outstanding, they are so thorough, so hard-working and so resilient, it’s unbelievable. Our kids get major benefit from them.

“I put my kids first, and for my kids, these guys [Teach First trainees] are outstanding. This is the best thing for kids in low decile kids and this system works.”

The ministry’s head of student achievement, Lisa Rodgers, said officials were carefully considering the ERA decision and seeking advice before determining the next step.

The ministry’s door remained open to the PPTA to resolve any issues they might have: “This programme is putting some of our brightest and best graduates into classrooms in lower decile communities to help their kids do their very best,” she said.

It was expected students would continue with their training in the meantime.

PPTA president Angela Roberts accused the ministry of being “reckless with these student teachers’ careers”.

The ERA decision ruled that, by law, vacancies for teaching positions in schools had to be advertised in the Education Gazette.

In his ruling, ERA chief James Crichton said the Teach First jobs, where graduates were bonded to a low-decile school for two years, didn’t comply with the secondary school collective agreement or the State Sector Act.

This is rhetoric as the reason principals have been so enthusiastic about the scheme is because they have difficulty attracting teachers to low-decile schools. Why else would there be a need to bond the Teach First student teachers? You bond them because you know they are likely to leave otherwise. This is not a new idea. In the past teachers have been trained for free with the understanding that they will teach for two years in New Zealand. They were bonded to do so as part of the deal. They got the training and in return the government got to fill vacancies in un popular areas of New Zealand. My mother taught under that scheme.

To run the programme as it was, there would need to be amendments to both. Under law an employer making an appointment must choose the best person available but Crichton agreed with the PPTA that excluding all certified teachers from the Teach First-only positions meant that was impossible.

“This is for the very straightforward reason a role in a school of a teaching position would best be occupied by an already certificated teacher,” he said.

Roberts said the PPTA could see benefits to the programme and hoped it could work with Teach First to find a solution. “But under current arrangements what we have is that these students are being employed illegally”.

Teach First was brought to New Zealand from the United Kingdom, Roberts said, and from the beginning the “bit they could never get their head around was that employment relations were different here from overseas”.

The PPTA has mounted a concerted campaign against the employment of teachers that don’t have traditional education qualifications.

 

– additional reporting Nicole Lawton, Tony Wall

– Sunday Star Times

Over on Kiwi Blog, David Farrar has responded to this article with the following comment.

‘How very sad. We often hear from the teacher unions that we need to spend more money on getting great teachers into low decile schools. We have a programme that does exactly that – gets some of the best graduates in NZ agreeing to spend two years teaching in low decile schools, and it gets blocked because basically they’re not union members.’


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