One of the most insulting and insidious things done to teachers by the previous government was when Hekia Parata removed democracy from the Education Council. Teachers were still required to fund the body through involuntary registration fees, but had no say on who made up the Council itself; Hekia hand picked every member of the Council herself.
The move from a focus on it being a teachers’ body to something more akin to an outer arm of the Ministry of Education was made patently clear with the removal of the the word ‘Teachers’ from its name. At that point, the Education Council ceased to be teachers’ representative body in both deed and name.
So it gave me great pleasure to see that the current Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, has a Bill before Parliament (Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa) Amendment Bill) that aims to right these wrongs and that this was supported in House by Tracey Martin (NZ First, Minister For Children) and Chloe Swarbrick (Green Party).
What gave me the greatest pleasure, though, was hearing Jan Tinetti (Labour) support the Bill. Jan has been a teacher and principal for over 20 years before becoming an MP last year, and she well knows the damage done to teacher morale over the past few years. She spoke for thousands of us when she said:
“The lowest point as a principal that I saw teachers get to was when the Education Council was set up under the Education Amendment Bill a couple of years ago. It was a real kick to teachers. It was where teachers said ‘the government doesn’t care about us – we don’t matter to them any more’ And we felt low. As a teaching profession, we felt lower than low.”
Jan hit the nail on the head when she pointed to the move being about control and punishment, saying:
“This was a punitive approach and was seen as a punitive way to control us as a teaching profession.”
She then rightly explained:
“…as any behavioural psychologist will tell you, punitive approach never brings out the best in anybody…”
Teachers felt downtrodden, mistrusted, and insulted. (And is it any wonder there’s a recruitment problem when the government openly treated us that way?) But change is afoot.
The changes proposed in the Bill aim to restore democracy to the teachers’ professional body by having 7 Council positions that are voted in by teachers, and restore teachers’ faith that it is their professional body by renaming it the Teaching Council. And in doing these things, it also restores hope that once more we have a government that respects teachers.
Mutual respect, honesty and integrity go a long way to bringing out the best in us all.
Here’s to better times.
~ Dianne, SOSNZ
You can (and should) enjoy Jan Tinetti’s speech in full, here: