ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
National membership 

Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Ask for the pay rise you deserve now before teachers are brought in from overseas

Right at this very moment there are some employers complaining that there are not enough qualified teachers prepared to work for them. 

The labour shortage in the NZ economy adds strength to the bargaining power of early childhood teachers since there are many higher paying jobs in other sectors, from cafe work and cleaning to primary school teaching, that a teacher could easily move into.

Ask your boss for a pay rise and you are likely to be surprised as an employer would be a fool not to offer more to make you stay.

If you are not being paid what you deserve and the employer only offers a minimum wage then "walk away," says Dr Sarah Alexander of ChildForum. 

“If you are being bullied or your workplace is causing you to experience mental health or physical injuries – walk away.

“To make it better for yourself you must be prepared to walk away.

"Don't rely on the union or on the government - they will make promises, say what they are doing, and because you are a nice person they will expect you to keep waiting and waiting. If you rely on the government or the union to change it for you then you are relying on the politics of the moment.

“Your boss might say ‘times are tough - I can’t pay you more’.  But an employer’s job is to suppress your wage expectations.”   

The job of the boss is to pay the lowest that an employee is willing to accept.


What do you think about early childhood teacher pay rates and conditions of work? 
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Dr Alexander suggests that walking away to look for something better will be hard for any teacher to do “because we are kind and caring people.”

But she argues that employers can take advantage of this kindness and teachers' willingness to sacrifice the income they deserve.

“As professionals it is not for us to sacrifice our income for the benefit of parents or the profits of employers. The work of an early childhood teacher is not an extension of mothering.  It is professional work.”  

An early childhood teacher shortage is now emerging as a consequence of several years of non-response by the Government and employer groups to bullying, stress, work-load and injury concerns that ChildForum has uncovered in teacher surveys.

The actions of some employers in their treatment of staff have negatively impacted on the reputation of the early childhood sector as a desirable sector to work in. 

Employers who have treated their employees badly are starting to realise the importance of holding onto their current teaching staff or risk losing staff to their competition and being forced to employ relievers who are more expensive.

Teachers are turning to relieving work, because the hourly pay is usually better and there is less stress, no work to take home, and they don't have to put up with workplace politics.


Further reading

Information on teacher pay rates, wages and conditions of work 

Tips for recruiting and retaining teachers at your service when their is a shortage of labour across the NZ economy

On the issue of migrants replacing NZ ECE teachers - A recipe for the disaster (Early Childhood Council)


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