Teachers cast ballots

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A LACK of young blood entering the teaching profession has Queenstown educators worried.

More than 100 Queenstown Lakes teachers gathered at the Events Centre for a union meeting last week.

The subject? A vote on whether to accept a new pay offer, or reject it and take industrial action.

Earlier this month the Ministry of Education offered the majority of teachers, about 86 per cent, a pay rise ranging from about 2.2 per cent to 2.6 per cent a year for three years.

Local NZEI Te Riu Roa union rep and Arrowtown School teacher Alan Forsyth says teachers are concerned about the public perception of the profession, which he says has “taken quite a beating” over the past decade.

They believe that, combined with a lack of affordability in some areas and poor work/life balance, is putting young people off becoming teachers.

Forsyth says the average age of teachers is mid to late 40s. There’s concern the number of new teachers won’t be enough to counteract retirements.

“It’s gotta be made attractive, otherwise we don’t know what’s going to happen in a few short years.”

In an ideal world, there’d be more support for teachers and a push to boost trainee numbers, he says.

If they vote to reject it, teachers and principals will then vote on whether to hold nationwide half-day work stoppages from 1.30-4.30pm on August 15. During that time, they’d attend union meetings to consider any further developments or offers.

Lead negotiator for the primary principals’ collective agreement Louise Green says after a “decade of neglect under the previous government, there are significant issues facing education, including a growing teacher shortage, stress and workload problems, and under-resourcing”.

The final union meetings will be held tomorrow.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz