The time is right. Teachers have had enough.

Something has shifted. The hundreds of primary teachers, principals and support staff who attended the NZEI Te Riu Roa Annual Conference in October drew a line in the sand.

In the middle of next year, primary teachers and principals will have their collective agreements up for renegotiation and the desire to give every child more teacher time, and attract more people to teaching was strong. For too long, teachers have had to put up with paltry pay increases.

But this will all be up to members to decide, in Paid Union Meetings which will be held early in the new year.

But teachers have been clear – they want a significant pay rise.  They’ve had years of 1 to 2 percent pay increases that are simply not keeping up with the growing demands of the job, and the cost of living in New Zealand, particularly in our big cities.

Taking action is about teachers coming together to fight for children’s education.

And we can do this. Look at last year’s campaign over bulk funding, NZEI the PPTA came together with parents, and children to create the kind of pressure that forced the Government to back-down on its bulk funding plans. We did the same in 2012 over class sizes.

The resolution at the conference to support the new campaign shows members are committed to take action if that’s needed to get real solutions to fix their pay and workload.

For years now, we’ve been seeing headline after headline about children not receiving adequate support for learning and behavioural needs, schools not receiving enough funding for basic running costs and teachers getting swamped with bureaucracy and testing requirements.

More recently, a dire shortage of teachers has emerged, as exhausted teachers leave for jobs that are less stressful and pay enough to allow them to support a family. It’s also harder to recruit new teachers as the profession is increasingly seen as low paid and not attractive to young people leaving school.

The OECD has warned that our  teachers are paid ten percent less than other New Zealanders with similar levels of skills and experience, and we’re paid less much less than our peers overseas1.

NZ is ranked 19th in the OECD for teachers’ pay based on purchasing power. That’s well behind the UK, the US, Australia, Canada – in fact, all the countries we like to compare ourselves with.

And teachers also need more time to teach.

NZ teachers have got some of the highest workloads, biggest classes, and lowest pay of any teachers in the developed world.

Teachers are dealing with increasing Government requirements to constantly assess and measure children and at the same time, there are more children with high and complex needs in their classrooms without the extra support those learners need.

Modern learning environments and Communities of Learning also create more demand for adult to adult collaboration, taking time away from planning and assessment time.

In addition teachers are increasingly providing support to children who lack basic food and clothing, are transient or in poor housing.

We need more people in schools, whether that’s specialist teachers, support staff or classroom teachers. In next year’s PUMs members will come up with claims to reduce their workload so teachers are freed to teach.

See author of The Disobedient Teaching Welby Ings’ inspiring speech to the annual conference.