Rates Rise Indicates How Cost Of Living Impacts Children's Education

The Reserve Bank’s latest decision to raise the official cash rate has only made it clearer that the Government needs to respond positively to calls from unions for a pay increase that would recognize the work of those in the education, health, public, and community sectors, NZEI Te Riu Roa President Liam Rutherford said.

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To control inflation, which is at a 30-year high, the Reserve Bank increased the interest rate to three percent. NZEI Te Riu Roa, one of the major public sector unions, is negotiating a pay agreement with the Government that would help offset the rising cost of living and the ongoing effects of the pandemic.

Mr. Rutherford said that even the smallest interest rate rise will affect members and that’s why they agreed to join the unified approach to achieve a pay increase. He believes that their collective strength will help them get the best agreement possible.

Mr. Rutherford said that while the primary education sector is struggling to deal with COVID-19 staff shortages, the rising cost of living is also affecting the supply of teachers.

Educators are finding that the bigger centers, like Auckland, are not as appealing anymore. The cheaper housing in other areas is much more appealing, but this puts pressure on principals in these smaller towns to recruit staff. They also have to manage the increased work demands on themselves and their teachers, as well as try to retain people in the profession.

“One school principal in Auckland told me that he doesn’t have a single staff member who is under the age of 40. He believes that this is because many younger teachers have left Auckland. After all, it’s less expensive to live outside of the city.”

The rising cost of living affects everyone, but it has especially dire consequences for those in the education system who are fighting for smaller class sizes, more support for school principals, and increased resources for children with high learning needs. Mr. Rutherford spoke about how this lack of Tamariki getting the education they deserve also affects society as a whole.

“These are all long-term cases that are existing boosted by these stresses currently,” he said.