Understaffed, Underpaid, Underappreciated – School support staff speak out

By Taroi Black

MPs across the country spent a day in the shoes of school teacher aides and admin staff in a move to better understand their struggles and the need for increased funding. Green Party MP Marama Davidson agreed to work alongside the staff at South Auckland's James Cook High School.

It was the first day back for James Cook High School students and they have been welcomed back by a familiar political face.

Marama Davidson says, “I think a real challenge for our support staff is making our kids feel empowered. Some of them don't even know how to read or write and we all know there's very little support staff around and that's why i'm here.”

Spending a day in the shoes of school teacher aides and admin staff it is hoped to give MP's a better understanding of why more funding is needed. Support staff, Jessica Tauariki says she's been underpaid for the past three years. Tauariki is a mother of three who's also hoping to study for a teacher’s degree next year.

Tauariki says, “Some kids will come to school and they haven't had a meal for a couple of days so it's about us making sure that they're okay. Kids won't learn if things aren't right with them and we just have to do the best that we can to make sure that they're here and ready.”

Teacher aides will be submitting a pay equity claim to the Ministry of Education. They say they want a pay rise but schools say they need funding increases.

Davidson says, “School Support Staff want a petition calling for better funding for our schools will be presented, they need 40,000 signatures.”

Tauariki says, “I feel underpaid for the work that I do and the situations that I'm put in while I'm working. I don't feel I'm appreciated enough and my pay definitely shows that.”

The Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) are discussing next steps in relation to pay equity for support staff employed in schools.