Labour candidate for Clutha-Southland Cherie Chapman visited Eastern Southland schools this week to learn about support-staff funding.
During her visit she signed the New Zealand Educational Institute’s better-funding, better-learning petition.
The petition is asking the Government to unfreeze operations grant levels. Support staff’s wages are paid out of schools’ operations grants.
Early this year NZEI Hokonui president Dana Turnbull issued a challenge to MPs and candidates to visit schools and walk in the shoes of support staff.
Ms Chapman said she had a background in education as she used to be an assistant principal, but found it helpful to see the situation from support staff’s point of view.
She had a session chatting with teacher aides in each school and hearing their concerns about funding issues.
One aspect teacher aides were particularly concerned about was the amount of professional development they received, Ms Chapman said.
“They don’t get much training.
“Teacher aides want to have more training,” Ms Chapman said.
She believed teacher aide wages should come from the ministry and not out of operations grants, she said.
Teacher aides were essential to have in the classroom, Ms Chapman said.
“They have a huge impact on not just the kids they look after but the rest of the kids in the classroom,” she said.
Teacher aides were underpaid and had no job security, she said.
“At the moment, they get paid next to nothing,” Ms Chapman said.
“The issues that came up today were lack of notice and no job security.”
Teacher aides also did not receive any holiday pay.
“There is eight weeks where they are not working because the school is closed so they don’t get paid.”
She believed teacher aides needed to be heard.
“I think the Government needs to listen.”
East Gore School principal Wendy Kitto said she was happy Ms Chapman had spent time with the teacher aides at the school.
She was also concerned about funding for support staff, Mrs Kitto said.
“Prices are going up, so everything tightens,” she said.
She would like to pay teacher aides holiday pay and give them more hours, but it was not possible to do that and pay the bills as well, Mrs Kitto said.