Teacher aide pay equity claim

What is a teacher aide?

There are over 18,000 teacher aides working in primary, intermediate, area and secondary schools and kura.

The teacher aide occupation was introduced to schools in the mid-twentieth century. They were brought in to assist teachers in basic classroom tasks and, with school inspector approval, to assist with basic teaching tasks.

In the 1970s, teacher aides became responsible for some of the support provided to an increasing number of children with special educational needs. Helping other adults to do more prestigious and complex work and caring for children were seen as typically female activities, not requiring much in the way of acknowledgment, training, or remuneration. Women worked as teacher aides, with married women with children of their own seen as particularly suited to the role.

Teacher aides are an important part of the education workforce. Today, there are 22,000 individuals employed each year, with around 18,000 working at any one time in primary, intermediate, area and secondary schools and kura. Their hours of work range from 5 to over 30 hours per week, and it is still a female dominated role - 89% of teacher aides in 2017 were women.

Teacher aide with children in class

Who employs and pays for teacher aides?

Teacher aides are employed by a school's Board of Trustees, and various employment relationships exist.

Teacher aides are paid for through Learning Support funding for individual students with additional needs (58%), and operational grants from the Ministry of Education. Schools might also receive limited funding for teacher aides for individual students from other agencies such as the Accident Compensation Corporation and the Ministry of Social Development, or use locally raised funds.

Most teacher aides are employed on Individual Employment Agreements – only 28% of teacher aides are union members on Collective Employment Agreements.

Boards must pay teacher aides the minimum rate specified in the collective agreement for each grade, but can choose to pay more.

There may be times when a teacher aide has been incorrectly graded on the remuneration matrix, and therefore they might not receive the correct pay rate for their skills and responsibilities.

For an equitable outcome, once settlement of the teacher aide claim has been reached, it will be important to make sure that all teacher aides are sitting on the correct grade. The Ministry will work with teacher aides, schools and kura to support them through this.

How much are they paid?

Current support staff pay rates range from $17.70 (minimum wage) to $33.67 per hour; the majority of teacher aides are paid from $17.70 to $20.69 per hour (around a third at the top of this range).

How did the teacher aide pay equity claim come about?

In 2016, the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI Te Riu Roa) lodged a pay equity claim on behalf of support staff, beginning with teacher aides, to the Ministry of Education.

In July 2017, as part of the Support Staff in Schools’ Collective Agreement terms of settlement, the Ministry, the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA), and NZEI Te Riu Roa agreed terms of reference to address the Teacher Aide Pay Equity Claim (TAPEC).

What has happened so far with the claim?

The Ministry of Education has been working in collaboration with the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI Te Riu Roa) and the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) to investigate the teacher aide pay equity claim since 2017.

The process taken is described in detail below.

StepDate Activity
Notice and scope of claim June 2016 - October 2017

June 2016 - Notification of claim for teacher aides.

July 2017 - Terms of Reference agreed as part of the 2017 collective agreement negotiation.

August-October 2017 - Scope defined, job descriptions called for and analysed to identify occupations within scope.

Investigation of the claimant role August 2017-middle of 2018

The pay equity principles required an understanding of the work done by teacher aides that was thorough enough to allow:

  • identification of less visible skills typically used in female dominant occupations
  • comparison with male dominated occupations.

After initial discussions, the Ministry, NZEI Te Riu Roa, and NZSTA realised we didn’t have an adequate understanding of the teacher aide job, so 261 interviews were held with teacher aides, their supervising teacher or SENCO and principal.

We chose the schools based on a representative sample from the Ministry’s Evidence Data and Knowledge team to cover all settings. Extra interviews were added to cover refugees and ESOL, expand coverage of special schools, and Māori medium kura.

The interview process placed a significant workload on the three partner organisations. The necessary after-interview processing was particularly demanding on NZEI Te Riu Roa teacher aide representatives, who had to juggle that work with their day jobs.

The interview process required:

  • Quality control
  • Follow up questions
  • Confirmation of interview notes
  • Confidentiality of teacher aide interview notes
  • Confirmed employees’ work with a Summary of Work sent to the teacher aide and principal
Identifying less visible skills September-December 2018

The less visible skills used by teacher aides were identified, named, and described using the teacher aide interviews as the source.

We discovered a list of 13 less visible skills on top of 16 areas of responsibility that teacher aides may perform.

Choosing comparator occupations Middle of 2018

Criteria was developed for the selection of comparators. We gathered a long list of possible comparators, and discussed which of them were best. After this, the list was refined and we agreed that both NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry would choose two comparators each.

Choosing an assessment tool Second half 2018

The team developed criteria for the assessment tool.

Tools looked at were:

  • Pay Equity Work Assessment, developed by the State Services Commission
  • an assessment tool used by the British National Health Service
  • the Equitable Job Evaluation tool (EJE).

Tested the tools using teacher aide interviews - did they recognise the full range of skills teacher aides use? Did they let us account for the degree of effort required?

Adapting the assessment tool Late 2018 and early 2019 Once we had chosen the evaluation tool, we adapted it to include the less visible skills and ensure that the range of skills/work done by teacher aides was covered.

NZEI named the adjusted assessment tool: Pay Equity Aromatawai Mahi (PEAM).

The assessment tool was tested on non-claimant/comparator roles and on teacher aide roles.

Arranging access to comparator occupations Late 2018 and early 2019 A positive response from comparator employers was received, including at chief executive level. Organisations worked with us within their operational requirements. Collective bargaining from the organisations and liaising with Technical Advisory Services (TAS) created unforeseen additional time needed to arrange access.
Comparator investigation Early-mid 2019 Interviews held with 59 employees at comparator organisations and 50 of their supervisors.
Assessment July-August 2019 NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry used PEAM to assess claimant and comparator roles. As part of the process, PEAM was refined further.
Summary of evidence August 2019 Ministry and NZEI Te Riu Roa prepared and agreed the summary of evidence report.
Development of a new matrix August 2019 A new matrix was created, outlining all the roles and responsibilities.
Agreement on pay equity issue October 2019 The investigation process has come to an end and the evidence indicates that there is a pay equity issue.

What happens next?

Both NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry will begin negotiations for a teacher aide pay equity settlement in the week beginning 16 December.

On Friday 29 November NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry held a day of bargaining for the Support Staff in Schools' Collective Employment Agreement which resulted in a settlement offer being signed by both parties.

Read more about the settlement offer for support staff in schools (external link)

We anticipate that the resolution of both the collective agreement negotiations and the teacher aide pay equity claims process will address a number of issues that teacher aides have been facing. We look forward to a settlement being reached that works for all parties. With respect to teacher aides this will include their remuneration being equitable with comparable roles in male dominated workforces.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback