Kea Crossing IMG1389 IMG9913 IMG7815 Wakefield School from Lookout 3 IMG4764 Picture from Waimea Weekly

Strike Industrial Action



Dear Parent, Caregiver and Community Member

As you know, primary teachers and principals in the Nelson region will strike tomorrow, Thursday 15 November, and our board of trustees has decided to close Wakefield School for the day.

Every member of our staff, myself included, have thought long and hard about taking this action.  We are acutely aware of the inconvenience the closure causes to families and the disruption to students’ learning.

We have decided to strike for the second time this year because of the seriousness of the problems facing education and our concerns that the government’s response so far is not enough to solve the issues.  We acknowledge that the government has answered some of our concerns.  In the past week they have announced that they intend to recruit 600 specialist teachers to support children with special learning and behaviour needs, and they have offered an improved salary package for some teachers and principals.  These offers will be considered at meetings tomorrow and teachers and principals will vote shortly on whether to accept them.  Whether these measures go far enough to make genuine inroads into the problems we face will be debated tomorrow and over the coming days.


To help you understand our concerns here is some information about the issues we face in education today:

  There are 40% fewer people beginning teacher training now than in 2012.

  50% of those entering the teaching profession leave in the first 5 years.

  The average age of primary school teachers in New Zealand is 57.

  Teachers workload issues continue to be ignored in the latest offer

  Tens of thousands of children in New Zealand need specialist support to learn. But schools are struggling without the financial resources to provide it.

  Principals constantly cite the desperate need for greater learning support for their students, and the huge pressure the shortfall puts on already overburdened teaching staff.


The issues we face today around teacher shortages and the growing demands of the job have built up over a lengthy period.  For years the profession has absorbed the costs of maintaining an excellent education system with decreasing resources.  As operational budgets fail to keep pace with rising costs and needs we trim here and there, try to maintain our focus on supporting learning and rely increasingly on our community fundraising to fill the gap.  But we’re stretched about as far as we can go.

The teacher shortage is real, even in Nelson.  This year, for the first time since I arrived in the region, we have had difficulty recruiting staff and, in fact, were only able to fill the new entrant position in term two by finding two teachers who were willing to come back from taking time off with young families and agree to a job-shared role.  

The pay gap between teaching and other professions has grown to the point where too few school leavers and others consider teaching as a viable career, especially when they weigh up the workload and other responsibilities that go with teaching compared to other professions.

Our register of students with special needs is growing almost every week.  In all my years in education we have never had to manage such a large and complex range of children with needs.  The release time and training we can give our Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) no longer match the size of the task and we ask the government to recognise this with some specialist funding and training for this role.

As I wrote back in August it’s not in the nature of teachers to dwell on the negative; we are dedicated to our profession, proud of our work and the good education your children receive in our care.  But… it’s important that we speak up about what isn’t working well and gain your understanding and support to improve things.  Our kids will be the winners.

Have a good week.


Peter Verstappen 



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Here’s What We Mean by ‘Student-Led Learning’


Jordan, who is six years old, was recently appointed to our Student Council as a representative of Matai Kereru team.  Last week our Council meeting clashed with scooter training for Jordan.  He came to the office to tell me but I was out, so what did Jordan do?  He wrote me this letter:



To mistir vstn

Sore I cant go to the

Shooht cousool

Becose I

Got scooti

Chraning at



from Jordan.


I love this letter, for two reasons.  First, it is a beautiful expression of a child learning to write; look at how he has made sense of the words ‘student council’, you can hear Jordan picking out the sounds in his mind. 


Second, it is a beautiful expression of student-led learning.  You might ask, ‘what’s he learning?’ but consider this.  Here’s Jordan, 6, as a thinker: he knows he has an obligation to the Student Council, he sees he cannot fulfil it, he comes to tell me, that doesn’t work, he decides he needs to write to me so he creates this letter and brings it to the office.  This is even more impressive because Jordan doesn’t know much about the Student Council yet, he’s only attended one meeting, but he knows he has some sort of obligation to it.  Here’s Jordan as a communicator: if he can’t tell me in person, he’ll slave over this letter to get the message to me.  Here’s Jordan as a planner: he’s thinking ahead and balancing his commitments.  Okay, Jordan will have had some prompts from his teacher, but he’s taken up the challenge and look at what he’s achieved. 


I value the opportunities children have to be leaders at school through the Student Council, committees, monitors and other roles.  Their work in these roles contributes to the smooth running of the school, but as well as leading others they provide real occasions for children to lead themselves, to become masters of their own learning.  And that’s what a democratic curriculum looks like.


Have a good week,




Peter Verstappen