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Bilingual reading help on hand

Last updated 15:22 13/06/2014
Nawton Primary School

GOOD READ: Donna Mahanga runs a peer reading programme for Maori and English at Nawton Primary School. With her are participant Kelly Simon, 6, and peer tutor Tiaho Wihongi, 10.

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Senior primary school students - with support from Donna Mahanga- are helping train the next generation of readers at Hamilton's Nawton Primary School.

Mahanga's formal title is kai-a-rahi i te reo, and she oversees a reading programme where senior students help those just starting to read - in English or te reo.

And on Tuesday she was one of a number of people schools around the country acknowledg  during the NZEI-led support staff day.

The primary education union is calling for greater job security and pathways, and a living wage for those staff members.

Mahanga has been helping students tutor their younger peers in reading through the pause, prompt, praise (or tatari, tautoko, tauawhi) reading programme for around four years now.

But she's been at Nawton School for about 20 years.And she frequently sees students have lightbulb moments through the reading programme, written by former University of Waikato lecturer professor Ted Glynn.

''When I can hear the chattiness happening and the laughing happening, I know the tuakana have taken them into the book, showed them some real cool things, and they're all happy with their reading,'' she said.

Tuakana, or older buddies, meet with their teina, or younger partner, four days a week to work on reading.

To make it easier, the tuakana reads the book first and then retells the basic plot to the teina to draw them in.

The tuakana have a big job because some students they're supporting have recently transferred from English classes to Maori immersion, Mahanga said.Support staff like Mahanga filled a ''myriad'' of roles and the support staff day was a chance to acknowledge that, Nawton Primary School principal Rubina Wheeler said.

Their work could range from financial administration to being a teacher aide.And teaching union NZEI says support staff need to be centrally-funded, given a living wage and greater job security and career pathways.

''If you're not a secondary earner, you can't live on what you get as a teacher aide,'' support staff representative for the Waikato area Carol Webb said.

''Basically, nobody's doing this for the money... and the job security's touch and go. If the budget doesn't allow it and they have to cut the budget, then they cut your hours.''

The union wanted support staff to be centrally funded, as teacher salaries are, so the school didn't have to find the money in its operation funding.

The education ministry's deputy secretary for student achievement Rowena Phair said they had been ''actively working'' with NZEI on support staff pay levels and were optimistic about achieving a resolution.

This year's budget also included a two per cent increase in operational funding - which covers day-to-day costs, including support staff - to start next year.

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- Waikato Times

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