MP learns about teacher aide work on school visit

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Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay put himself in the shoes of a teacher aide for a morning on Monday.

Mr Barclay said he met representatives of the New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) about four weeks ago.

At that time NZEI Hokonui president Dana Turnbull challenged him to put himself in the shoes of a teacher aide.

Mr Barclay accepted the challenge and spent time with both an early childhood teacher aide at Oxford Kindergarten and a compulsory education teacher aide at Longford Intermediate.

More MPs should have the chance to go into schools and observe teacher aides, Mr Barclay said.

“I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to observe what day-to-day is like.”

He had an interest in education, Mr Barclay said.

Learning experience Longford Intermediate principal Shona Hewlett (left), Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay and teacher aide Marie Kelly chat about Mr Barclay’s experience shadowing a teacher aide on Monday. PHOTO: LAURA SHIPLEY

“I have great respect for people who work in the education sector.”

During the morning he had discussed Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding with teacher aides, which is funding for pupils with complex challenges who need a teacher aide with them.

There was always “tension” over where to draw the line for funding, he said.

Principal Shona Hewlett said the teacher aides at Longford were passionate about their job.

The school had seven teacher aides, all of whom were paid for with ORS funding.

“They are highly valued as part of the staff,” Ms Hewlett said.

“It was great for Todd to talk to teacher aides on the job.

“It gave him a look at how tough it can be and how rewarding it can be.”

She had a great admiration for what teacher aides did, she said.

She started her career as a teacher aide before doing her teacher’s training, Ms Hewlett said.

“It’s a very skilled but underpaid profession.”