Amid the budget hype on Thursday, the New Zealand Teaching Council announced it would be increasing teacher registration fees twofold. Teachers and teaching groups say the decision shows their opinions aren’t valued.
The Teaching Council’s move to more than double registration fees is “unacceptable” and amplifies teachers’ mistrust in their professional body, Post Primary Teachers’ Association president Jack Boyle has told the union’s members in a scathing email.
An email sent to teachers on Thursday afternoon by the Teaching Council announced the new fee of $157 each year, a rise from $220 every three years, which will be introduced in February 2021. The email said the council was committed to “better demonstrating their value as the professional body for teachers”.
In January this year, the Teaching Council entered into a consultation period with teachers from all over the country, receiving feedback from more than 24,000 about fee amounts, payment periods and teaching council services. The PPTA says the decision to increase registration goes against the feedback that was collected, and attempts by the Teaching Council to say it had been taken on board weren’t accepted by teachers.
“They claim to have listened to our feedback that teachers want to be able to pay annually – twisting it to mean annual certification,” said Boyle’s email. “[The] announcement of a 115% fee increase only serves to amplify the mistrust that teachers feel in a body that claims to represent their best interests while ignoring their concerns.”
The Teaching Council is an independent statutory body with a board of 13, appointed to represent the more than 100,000 registered teachers from early childhood to secondary schooling in New Zealand. After the latest move, Boyle called into question whether the body does indeed represent those it claims to.
“On top of the massive increase and shift to annual certification, they have completely failed to acknowledge the heart of teachers’ concerns… The Teaching Council does not speak for teachers, nor does it listen to them.”
A petition started on Thursday night by early childhood teacher Anna Hamilton at the time of writing had more than 13,000 signatures from those concerned about the price hike. Hamilton says the increase in fees is a sign teachers aren’t being valued. She says she doesn’t believe the Teaching Council listened to the feedback it received at all.
“If you look at the result of a survey and the percentage of people who disagreed with the things that they were proposing, we haven’t been heard. For example, with the late fees, they’ve increased from $50 to $100, which is a 100% increase, but 69% of people disagreed with that in the survey, and they still went ahead with it.”
The findings report published after the consultation process showed teachers were in fact more likely to want the fee decreased, and many thought it was unfair that teachers were having to pay for registration from their own pockets.
NZEI Te Riu Roa president Liam Rutherford told The Spinoff teachers were concerned about the timing of the announcement, coming as it does just as schools prepare to welcome students back on Monday following the move to alert level two.
“The main feedback I’ve had is around the timing of it. Teachers across the country have got their heads down in schools and early childhood centres and making sure what they do in class next Monday can be done with a health and wellbeing mindset. The timing of the announcement due to the budget is something that’s not overly consistent with that.”
Rutherford says the NZEI will be taking teachers’ concerns to the Teaching Council, and the PPTA will be meeting to “decide an urgent response” to the price increase.
Hamilton hopes this time the Teaching Council really does what it claims to already have done – listen to teachers.
“I’m hoping that they can look at it and say, ‘yes, we haven’t put the fees up for 10 years but that’s our fault, we haven’t accounted for increased costs, we’re not going to lump that on teachers in one go’.
“Us teachers took our time to respond to that survey and it really feels like we haven’t really been listened to at all.”