Pupils take a stand for teacher aides
Grantlea Downs School made a visual statement yesterday with all 361 pupils and teachers gathering in support of teacher aides who are campaigning for fair pay.
Teacher aide Joy McGillivray said they wanted better pay and job security as 90 per cent of teacher aides were earning less than the living wage and were on fixed term contracts.
The pupils were organised to stand in a configuration to spell out the word ‘Fair’, and McGillivray hoped photos of the display would be circulated to raise awareness of the teacher aides’ plight nationally and pressure the Ministry of Education to move more quickly in pay negotiations.
Grantlea pupils said they wanted to be part of the campaign.
‘‘Teacher aides are really helpful in different ways and help us solve problems,’’ Shianna Heney, 9, said.
Faliqh Faris, 11, thought the teacher aides worked as hard as everyone else, so they should be treated the same to make it fair.
The New Zealand Educational Institute: Te Riu Roa on behalf of teacher aides and other support staff members has been in negotiations with the Ministry of Education for pay equity since October 2017 but had not reached a resolution.
Teacher aides are not required to have a qualification, but do undergo regular professional development sessions, and can study for them if they want to earn a higher pay rate. One per cent of teacher aides have the qualification or equivalent and earn between $24.70 and $33.67 an hour. The majority of 72 per cent are on the $17.70 to $20.69 rate and 9 per cent are in the $20.69 to $24.70 bracket according to Support Staff Professionals New Zealand (a professional support group).
NZEI South Canterbury core presentative Julie Langford said the teacher aide sector was female dominated because of the low pay and the role was comparative with staff from Corrections, Customs, Youth Justice workers and caretakers who they wanted pay equity with.
As well as wanting better pay, teacher aides were pushing for job security.
McGillivray said 64 per cent of teacher aides were on a fixed term contract which meant they did not know if they had work from one term to the next and did not get holiday pay. As far as studying went, she said it was hard to find a provider to study through and the result was not worth the ‘‘pittance’’ her pay rate would increase by.
Two teacher aides at Gleniti School have not organised any events to campaign for fair pay but said they support the others who had.
Anna Coombs and Sarah Johnson have worked in the role part-time for four and eight years, respectively. They both said they loved the job and would not want the children they work with to miss out on support due to any funding cuts because of their demands.
‘‘I love it, it’s my passion,’’ Coombs said. The duo want job security ahead of fairer pay because if one of their pupils left then they lost those hours. Also, as the end of the year approached they have no idea what changes to their work hours they may face next year.
Grantlea Downs School pupils spell out ‘‘Fair’’ as they and teachers (foreground) back the New Zealand-wide fair pay claims of teacher aides.