Professional learning and development for teacher aides

Issue: Volume 99, Number 11

Posted: 16 July 2020
Reference #: 1HA94J

From 1 July 2020 a new pilot fund will provide teacher aides with easier access to professional learning and development (PLD) opportunities.

For the past 12 years Glenys Brown has been a learning assistant* (also known in many schools as a teacher aide) at Waimauku School in West Auckland. It’s a job she loves: working closely with teachers to support learners. 

“The best part about [my role] is the absolute joy I get when a student who has been struggling to understand something finally gets it with patience and support. Teacher aides in general are masters of thinking outside the box and so we can come up with ways of showing or explaining things,” says Glenys. 

PLD opportunities valued

Glenys has always valued the opportunities she’s had for professional learning and development (PLD). Over the past 12 years she has engaged in specific training to support students with high health needs. This includes: training to run a perceptual motor programme, First Aid training, and training in a range of other areas and programmes including Understanding Behaviour, Responding Safely (UBRS), Numicon, Early Words, Quick60, and Reading Simplified. 

“All the PLD I’ve completed has contributed directly to my ability to support students in an effective, measurable way and has contributed to the bank of knowledge I now have to call on,” she says.

And now Glenys, along with all other teacher aides in New Zealand, will be able to develop her learning and skills further, thanks to a new PLD fund that has been established for teacher aides. 

New PLD fund for teacher aides

The new $2.29 million fund will pay for course fees and compensate teacher aides for their time to attend PLD courses. After discussing their plans with their supervisor, teacher aides can now apply to attend a course that supports the development of their skills and knowledge in a way that contributes to meeting the learning needs of ākonga and their school or kura. 

The fund can help support teacher aides to pursue training opportunities within their school or cluster delivered by Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour and learning support staff. It can also pay for classes offered by private providers, polytechnics and universities as well as schools, kura or clusters of schools. It covers both face-to-face and online delivery. 

Glenys describes it as an exciting step for teacher aides. The fund will help ease the pressure on schools’ Operations Grants, which is typically how costs relating to teacher aides are funded. 

Pay Equity settlement boosts PLD fund

Glenys has been involved in establishing the new fund, which was agreed as part of the Support Staff in Schools’ Collective Agreement negotiations last year. She was one of five teacher aides working alongside NZEI Te Riu Roa staff who met with the Ministry of Education and New Zealand School Trustees’ Association working group every fortnight since February, including throughout lockdown via Zoom. 

Prior to this, Glenys was involved in the Teacher Aide Pay Equity Claim, which was lodged on behalf of teacher aides by NZEI in September 2017. With the ratification of the Pay Equity settlement set for early July, the PLD fund will increase from $790,000 to $2.29 million over 18 months from 1 July this year.

“We have tried to make the application process as easy as possible and accessible to all,” says Glenys.

She views this as a significant step towards upskilling the teacher aide workforce. 

“Students and teachers benefit from well-trained teacher aides. It is also hugely important for personal job satisfaction. PLD makes me feel confident that I know I’m on the right path and have the training to back that up.

“The Teacher Aide PLD fund and the Pay Equity settlement, as well as other ongoing work will help to make being a teacher aide a valued and viable career option for many.”

*Glenys’ role sits within and meets the criteria and class of work of a teacher aide as per the Teacher Aide Pay Equity Claim. 

About the PLD fund

From 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, the fund will provide $500,000 towards PLD for teacher aides, with a further $290,000 from 1 July 2021 to February 2022 when the collective agreement expires.  

Following ratification on 3 July 2020, the Teacher Aide Pay Equity Claim Settlement will receive an extra $1.5 million during the period
1 July 2020 to February 2022, to bring the total available for the pilot to $2.29 million over 18 months to support the professional learning and development of teacher aides. 

For more information for schools and teacher aides and the online application form, please go to the teacher aide PLD(external link) website. 

A day in the life of a teacher aide

Glenys Brown shares what a typical day at work looks like for her.

A typical day for me starts with supporting a Year 6 student who has autism. He likes to be quite independent so I check in with him regularly to make sure he understands the task and is on track. Then I support several other students in the class who struggle but don’t receive funding for support.

 After an hour I move to a combined Year 3 and 4 class where I work with a small group of students who need additional support with a structured reading programme. I do all the planning for this programme and report progress and feedback to the teachers and my learning support coordinator. 

After morning tea, I go to a Year 6 student who has a severe form of epilepsy. This student cannot be left on her own at any time during the school day so there are three core teacher aides who work with her, and others who come in to support her during morning tea and lunch breaks. 

Seizures are common with this student so I constantly monitor her for signs that a seizure may be coming, being careful to ensure she doesn’t get too hot or too tired as both can trigger seizures. 

I also take her for regular toilet breaks and assist her with personal hygiene. I usually stay with this student until lunchtime unless I’m on duty over lunch, when I’m relieved by another teacher aide so I can eat lunch before my duty starts.

Twice a week I run a Perceptual Motor Programme for this student and up to 13 other high needs students from Year 1 to Year 6. I am supported by other teacher aides during this time. I adapt the standard PMP programme to suit this group of students and make sure everyone involved is aware of how the activities are to be done safely. 

Weekly duties include two days working in sickbay over lunchtime and one day supervising the student with epilepsy during lunchtime. Everywhere this student goes we take a trolley with us that contains ice packs, oxygen and medications to use if a seizure occurs. 

After lunchtime I take groups of Year 2 students and work on a structured reading programme with them similar to the one I use in the morning. I’m responsible for testing these students before they start and the retesting near the end of term. During this time, I see two groups twice a week each.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:16 pm, 16 July 2020

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