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The Government’s failure to reach an agreement with primary teachers has caused massive disruption to children’s learning today and to parents who have struggled to sort childcare arrangements, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“During the election campaign, Labour built up high expectations around pay rises and working conditions for teachers. Now they won’t follow through, and as a result we have seen the first primary teachers’ strike in 24 years.

“When National was in Government, due to the Canterbury earthquakes and the Global Financial Crisis we did not have the same fiscal envelope that Labour has now.

“However, we still increased teacher pay and allocated $359 million on top of salaries for additional payments to teachers across Communities of Learning, as well as investing in initiatives to improve teacher supply.

“Labour have billions more than the previous National Government, but teachers have not been prioritised while the Government has decided instead to spend $2.8 billion on its fees-free package, $3 billion on Shane Jones’ slush fund and huge amounts of cash for diplomats.

“Thousands of teachers marched today demonstrating that teachers want and need more support. I have met with Union representatives and a number of teachers recently and over the coming weeks I will be encouraging my colleagues to continue to meet with teachers in their electorates to hear their concerns.

“I acknowledge the teachers who turned out today to have their voice heard. We also respect that it will have been a difficult day for parents trying to ensure that they have adequate supervision and care.

“My hope is that the Government prioritises teachers and reaches a settlement which raises teachers’ salaries and that parents and families do not experience further disruption. We realise some of the issues being negotiated are far wider than just pay but also cover teacher workload.

“We have serious concerns about the Minister’s hands-off approach in the lead up to the strike. Yesterday he was unable to say exactly how many of the 1945 primary schools would be open or closed today, and the Government did not offer any support to families who were dealing with school closures and didn’t have other options for childcare.

“This would have made planning very difficult for some families who struggled to afford childcare or get leave from work.

“The Government needs to get back to the table to reach a settlement urgently with teachers and prevent further disruption to students and their families.”

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