South Canterbury schools voice support for support staff

Carol Hankin gets a signature from Tamarin Eden, of Timaru, with Carlita Carson, 23 months, Wil Prichard Patterson, one ...
TETSURO MITOMO/FAIRFAX NZ

Carol Hankin gets a signature from Tamarin Eden, of Timaru, with Carlita Carson, 23 months, Wil Prichard Patterson, one month, and Phaegan Patterson, one, as part of the PPTA, NZEI and E Tu unions' Better Funding, Better Learning Heartland tour.

A South Canterbury school would "struggle" to pay bills if it did not fundraise each year, its principal says.

Pleasant Point Primary School fundraises up to $40,000 each year to reach what it labels "a break-even budget".

As other schools around the country consider cutting support staff hours and jobs, the school raises additional funding so it does not have to face that predicament.

Brenda Te Koeti and Carol Hankin campaign for the PPTA, NZEI and E Tu unions' Better Funding, Better Learning Heartland tour.
TETSURO MITOMO/FAIRFAX NZ

Brenda Te Koeti and Carol Hankin campaign for the PPTA, NZEI and E Tu unions' Better Funding, Better Learning Heartland tour.

Principals across the region have voiced their support for school support staff, following a joint union campaign demanding better funding.

The Better Funding, Better Learning Heartland tour is run by the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), Post Primary Teachers' Association and E Tu unions.

READ MORE: Support staff hours or jobs could be cut if education funding does not improve, principal says

Education Minister Hekia Parata has challenged many of the statements made on the campaign trail, saying the Government had allocated more teacher aide support than ever before.

Principal Mark Creba said the school had no plans to cut support staff, despite operating on a "break-even budget", not when children's education was "the heart of the matter".

"We've had to rely on fundraising. We would struggle to pay the bills otherwise."

There were increasing cases of children with additional learning needs approaching schools for help, he said.

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This meant support staff were needed more than ever.

School librarian and teacher aide Brenda Te Koeti has been working at Pleasant Point Primary School for more than 10 years.

"There's a lot of needy kids out there, who haven't got teacher aides," Te Koeti said.

Some of the pupils she taught had jumped multiple reading levels after help, she said.

School trips and swimming carnivals "wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for [support staff] hands on deck" as many parents did not have time to help.

Te Koeti joined part of the campaign tour because she was passionate about the cause.

"The ministry doesn't see us contributing that much ... it doesn't see us as skilled workers and we're paid like that."

Everything is going up in price, but funding had not gone up with inflation, she said.

NZEI national executive representative Barbara Curran said core funding had been "frozen" this year.

This was used to pay for support staff workers.

Curran was concerned education was a "political football".

Instead it should have a clear 20-year plan formulated with all the involved parties and then be removed from the political arena, she said.

In response, Parata said "it's unfortunate that some groups play politics with education, by making up figures, or labelling a funding increase as 'frozen'".

"I would certainly welcome more people taking the time to read and understand the government accounts, prepared by public servants and made public on Treasury and Ministry of Education websites, as that could remove a lot of the politics from the debate."

Waimate High School principal Janette Packman said there would be no support staff cuts at her school.

"Our support staff are integral to the efficient operation of our school and the delivery of quality teaching and learning."

This was echoed by Craighead Diocesan School principal Lindy Graham, who said support staff were "highly valued members of our school community".

Mountainview High School principal Mark Jones said support staff were valued as they provided support to students and to staff, and there were no plans for cuts.

Timaru Girls' High School principal Sarah Davis said support staff would have "slightly more" hours following a roll increase.

 - Stuff

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