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Did Seymour Really Say Migrant Teachers Are ‘Less Useful’?

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

ACT leader David Seymour is denying allegations he made deregotary remarks about migrant teachers while talking about pay parity in early childhood education (ECE).

The associate minister of education was speaking on TVNZ’s Breakfast on March 14, 2024, when he appeared to suggest overseas teachers might sometime be less useful than those trained locally. 

He said teachers from overseas “actually end up getting paid more than somebody who is at a lower pay grade but from New Zealand and is actually more useful in the centre”.

Some media reports pointed out that comment. A report in NZ Herald read-“He [Seymour] claimed that pay parity means that you have to pay recently graduated New Zealanders less than someone from overseas who is ‘less New Zealand-experienced and less useful to the kids’.”

The report went on to quote New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) ECE centre manager Megan White accusing Seymour of “scapegoating overseas teachers”.

An official in Seymour’s team told The Indian Weekender the minister was not making a qualitative statement on overseas teachers. 

“His point was that a teacher who might be less effective than a New Zealand trained one is likely to get a higher wage due to contracting arrangements. 

“Equally there are many teachers from overseas who might be more effective than New Zealand trained ones and deserve to be appropriately remunerated. 

“His comments were not a criticism of foreign teachers in any way, nor were they intended to infer they [overseas teachers] are ‘less useful’.”

A statement from Seymour’s office quoted him as saying ECE pay parity is “what teachers be paid, it is not what early childhood education centres are fundedd for, which is an amount per hour per child depending on the child’s age.

“Pay Parity creates many strange consequences,” the minister says. “For example, a foreign teacher with a foreign degree and no New Zealand experience can get paid more than someone with years of New Zealand training if they do a one year diploma."



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