A fair deal for teacher aides

Issue: Volume 99, Number 8

Posted: 28 May 2020
Reference #: 1HA7to

Teacher aides are set to receive a boost in pay and conditions following the teacher aide pay equity settlement.

Donna Te Wheoro is a teacher aide at Tahatai Coast School in the Bay of Plenty. She works with autistic children who are high-functioning and non-verbal. It’s a job she finds both challenging and rewarding.

“I think the days of mums coming in to school to read with children and sharpen pencils has well and truly gone,” says Donna. “There are many demands on teachers’ time, taking them away from precious learning time. They treasure teacher aides being in their classrooms.”

Donna finds it hugely gratifying to witness children’s progress.

“Things like writing their own name, putting on their shoes, learning to ride a scooter. Using a coreboard to communicate wants and needs or an electronic talker. Seeing kids being accepted socially, and being shown empathy and encouragement. Knowing that they are known in their community - especially for the future when they’re older and navigating the world.”

Boost to pay and conditions

Donna is pleased to hear that pay and conditions are about to improve for the 22,000 teacher aides across New Zealand, as a result of the teacher aide pay equity claim.

Tahatai Coast School principal Matt Skilton shares in Donna’s enthusiasm.

“Principals really value support staff and all they do for the kids. I fully endorse any improvement to their pay and conditions.”

Road to pay equity

The pay equity claim was lodged in 2016 by teachers’ union New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI Te Riu Roa) on behalf of teacher aides, claiming that the work of teacher aides, who are typically female, is undervalued because of their gender.

Since July 2017 when the Terms of Reference were signed, the Ministry of Education, New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) and NZEI Te Riu Roa, have been working through an agreed process to consider a pay equity claim for teacher aides employed by state and state-integrated schools.

The organisations have jointly used a process using the Pay Equity Principles to resolve the pay equity claim. 

The teacher aide pay equity claim is thought to be one of the most complex pay equity claim, assessment, and settlement processes undertaken to date under the Pay Equity Principles. 

The settlement at a glance

Pay equity rates

The proposed settlement is made up of new and fair pay rates ranging from $21.20 to $34.68 and be effective from 12 February 2020.

Tiaki allowance

The settlement includes increases in the Tiaki allowance (formally dirty work allowance) to fully correct the sex-based undervaluation of remuneration identified during the investigation process. Teacher aides who perform tiaki duties (cleaning up soiled children) on a regular basis, they will receive an allowance of $2.60 per hour on top of their hourly rate.

For teacher aides who are required to perform tiaki duties occasionally, the current allowance of $3.85 per incident (up to once per day) will be increased by 25 percent to the new rate of $4.81 per incident (up to once per day). This 25 percent reflects the average increase to teacher aide wages as a result of the pay equity claim.

Professional Learning & Development fund

An extra $1.5 million will be added to the pilot PLD fund agreed as part of the Support Staff in Schools’ Collective Agreement settled at the end of last year.

This will bring the fund from $790,000 to $2.29 million over 18 months to support the professional learning and development of teacher aides.

Variation of hours clause

To address vulnerability created by boards being able to vary the hours a teacher aide works without restriction, boards will not be allowed to vary the number of hours worked by a teacher aide by more than 25 percent, and can only make a variation once a year.

Longer term work

NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry have also recognised that there are broader matters that need addressing to resolve other work issues affecting teacher aides, and these will be included as work under the education Accord, signed by NZEI Te Riu Roa, PPTA and the Ministry in 2019.

This work includes a commitment to reviewing the way schools are funded for teacher aides; providing guidance on the use of fixed-term agreements to ensure they are being used appropriately; and establishing a working group to explore career pathways and professional development for teacher aides.

The Ministry and NZEI Te Riu Roa will review remuneration after three years to make sure the pay equity rate is maintained.

For more information about the teacher aide pay equity claim visit here(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:20 am, 28 May 2020

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