Teacher Only Days are worse than Strikes

One thing I was very pleased with when involved with establishing and supporting South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland was that they really did work hard to put the outcomes for children and their families first. One part of this was NEVER taking Teacher Only Days.

I have not been on the Villa Education Trust or in an advisory role for two years now. Last year I was contracted to track and report on outcomes for leavers of these Middle (Year 7 – 10) schools. As these were diving the new Boards of Trustees took the action that is prevalent through much of the education sector – stop tracking the data and remove all transparency.

To some extent the schools avoided the strikes but I regard teacher only days as worse than strikes as there is not even a smidgen of over-riding or collective purpose.

Teachers get at least twelve weeks of holiday a year. They often claim that they work right through them. That is pulling the wool and I know these two schools very well. They have good teachers – and they also enjoy their holidays to close to the fullest extent. There are not too many on site after 4pm.

Education as a whole is well known to be in crises – enrollment, attendance, literacy, numeracy, qualifications achievement (e.g. in South Auckland 33% of Maori leave school without L1 NCEA). It is also well documented that low decile (high Equity Index) schools are struggling the most as a rule, as are Maori and Pasifika students. Both of these schools are decile 1 and have well over 80% Maori and Pasifika by ethnicity. Both were also thriving on all measurables through their first 7 years but latest available data says otherwise. If they were still Partnership Schools their approach to data and outcomes would be unacceptable.

When you have 12 weeks holiday a year. When you have a student teacher ratio of 15:1. When you have all resourcing administration done externally – as well as a significant amount of academic preparation. How do you justify a teacher only day? You can’t.

What is the effect on decile 1 families?

Disruption and potential expense. I know a lot about many of the families in South and West Auckland who want their children at these schools. They are often hard working and parents often have two jobs – with minimal benefits such as annual leave. They are often large families and sometimes even using their garages for sleep-outs. Many of these conscientious parents have to either take a day’s leave or pay someone to care for their 10 – 15 year old children. The alternative is to fend for themselves.

The effect on the students is that they miss yet another day of learning. Keep in mind that in our high school system Year 13s are the only ones who have had a normal year without multiple disruptions. Teachers try and say “everyday matters”. Clearly they do not believe that to be true.

Am I an a%$^hole for pointing this out for schools I used to be associated with? Probably. However it was either that or being a hypocrite given that I have criticized others for striking and taking teacher only days. Given the holiday conditions that teachers work under and the available of call-back days under the collective contract – no school should be taking Teacher Only Days. They are an anathema to quality education. They are a scourge to families, deny students a day of learning and potentially put them at risk being out and about with no supervision – and strangely, they are pretty much are always a Friday or Monday and so allowing a nice long weekend for teachers.

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