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Strength in numbers .. Primary school teachers from West Gore School and NZEI Hokonui chairwoman of NZIE Dana Turnbull (front right), at the paid union meeting held last week. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

About 160 primary school teachers attended a paid union meeting held by the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa in Gore last week to decide whether they would accept or reject an offer from the Ministry of Education.

The ministry offered a pay rise ranging from about 2.2% to 2.6% a year for three years, for most primary school teachers.

If the offer was rejected there was the possibility of unpaid strike action on August 15, if an agreement had not been made before then.

NZEI Hokonui chairwoman Dana Turnbull said schools had been neglected and expected to cope with not enough for too long.

“This is a really important time for us to unite as a teaching profession, to stand up and have a voice around those important critical factors which will help sustain us in our roles,” Mrs Turnbull said.

Some of the issues teachers were facing included workload, staff retention problems, class sizes, and resources to support children with learning difficulties.

“Everyone is facing the same issues,” Mrs Turnbull said.

“One school tried 30 relievers the other day to get a reliever.”

There would be an opportunity for schools to involve parents and the community in deciding where to go next, at a meeting to be held in August.

“Together we are a powerful collective of professionals who have been raising some important issues facing our schools and our children.”

Mrs Turnbull said the turnout from Eastern Southland schools at the meeting was excellent and teachers came from as far afield as Lumsden and Invercargill.

“The turnout was absolutely overwhelming. It just shows the strength of unity, and I know there are lots of passionate teachers out there who want to make a change so they can stay in this profession.”

Mrs Turnbull said teaching was a profession where people had to have a passion for teaching, enthusiasm and dedication.

“We don’t want to shut, we don’t want to strike, because we feel like we’re failing our kids,” she said.

“If we don’t address these issues, no-one else will.”