Teachers meet to discuss big issues

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 25/03/2014

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Living wages and the Government's new $359 million investment plan for education are issues Taranaki teachers and support staff will be discussing at union meetings in coming days.

More than 30 South Taranaki school support staff were at Hawera High School yesterday as part of a nationwide paid union meeting, Living Wage 4 Learning, to discuss the Education Ministry's offer around career pathways and pay packages.

Two sets of meetings, one for support staff and the other for teachers, are held around the country until April 4.

While support staff meetings focused on living wages and career progressions, the one for teachers looked at the Government's $359m investment plan announced in January.

The new plan will create four new teaching and leadership roles in schools, aimed at supporting teacher and principals to "lift student performance" in schools over the next four years.

NZEI said the Government was putting millions into highly-paid new roles, while rejecting a living wage for low paid teacher aides and support staff.

Some school support staff are on hourly rates of $15.03 per hour, which was below the living wage of $18.80, NZEI said.

The organisation believes about 45 per cent out of the nation's 24,000 school support staff are earning below the current living wage.

NZEI field officer Graeme Whitworth said support staff members at yesterday's meeting supported better living wages. Career progressions were also discussed.

Mr Whitworth also said there were discussions for support staff to be paid out of a central fund instead of schools' operation grants.

Waverley Primary School principal Carwyn Caffell said its support staff play a "huge and very significant" part in the running of the school's day-to-day operations.

"They support with learning, school events and a lot of other activities," Mr Caffell said. "Teacher aides are the teachers' right-hand person and they do a lot of the jobs without any complaint. They just knuckle down and do it."

The pay the support staff receive does not compensate for all their hard work, Mr Caffell said.

"It's chicken feed."

NZEI national president Judith Nowotarski said support staff were crucial to student success and the effective running of the schools: "They deserve recognition and a fair deal."

NZEI is holding a community event on Parliament's steps this Saturday at 1pm to petition for fair pay rates for teacher aides and support staff.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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