In the car, on the way back from support staff professional development in Wellington one year, Sue Booth and Sue Andrews – a fellow support staff member – came up with an idea.
“We had been to Wellington to a conference and we were sitting in the car and said why can’t we do this in Wanganui?”
Sue Booth works two jobs. In the morning she is Office Administrator at Aranui Primary School in Wanganui where she has worked for the past 30 years and does all the tasks associated with a school office. She is also NZEI Te Riu Roa support staff worksite rep at the school. In the afternoons she goes to Wanganui Collegiate School where she is employed to do payroll, Novopay and is on the finance team.
She also does an hour’s teacher aide work at Aranui each morning.
As the result of the conversation in the car and a lot of planning, the first Administrators in Education Wanganui Conference was born.
It has been running now for four years with people coming from as far as Wellington, Hawkes Bay, New Plymouth, National Park and Palmerston North.
Some come back every year, Sue says, and the feedback is positive.
She says the aims are not only to provide professional development for administrators in education but to: “inspire and rejuvenate, by providing opportunities for administrators to network, bounce ideas and share wisdom with one another.”
Back at school, she says the best thing about her job is the diversity of the role.
“It encompasses supporting children’s learning in a variety of ways, assisting teachers with curriculum delivery and liaising with the wider community. This often means being the first line of contact for many students, parents and visitors who come into the school.’’
Sue says the job has changed vastly over the 30 years she has been doing it.
“There is no comparison. The skills needed are very different. It’s an ever-changing job and there are many diverse roles in schools in administration these days.”
Which is why professional development is so vital.
“Successful school administration is both a science and an art form. It’s about managing people as much as processes and keeping a complex machine well-oiled. Professional development is a key to assisting administrators to achieve this.
“With the ever-changing world especially technology, constant up-skilling is a vital part of our positions as professionals.’’
This year the conference has workshops on difficult conversations and behaviour, job descriptions, ergonomics and auditing. Novopay personnel will be attending from Wellington and the keynote speaker Sue Blair will speak on how awareness of one’s own personality affects those around us and promotes good communication and team spirit.
Sue says the conference receives sponsorship from various groups and they attempt to keep the registration fees as low as possible.
Apart from organising conferences and working at the schools, Sue is also a support staff worksite rep and she says that members need a strong voice.
“There is a constant need to recruit non-union members so that support staff has greater bargaining power when it comes to negotiations.”
One of the most pressing issues for support staff is job security. Sue says that many teacher aide salaries are funded by outside agencies and that this funding is precarious.
This together with constant changes in support staff hours, that can change from year to year due to pressure on the operations grant, which is funded by the Ministry of Education, means may support staff have no job security.
Sue says core support staff roles must be centrally funded and that the operations grant must be unfrozen.
“The Government needs to remove the freeze on the operations grant because supporting students’ learning with non-teaching staff (aides, administrators etc) and just covering the contractual employment obligations means that funding is then stretched to cover the basics, such as teaching resources and electricity.”
For more information on the conference and to register go to: aie.org.nz