Penny Sinclair has one over-riding wish from the Government after a first term that was badly affected by COVID – look at education long term and engage with the Wāwāhi Tahā | Time 4 Tamariki campaign.
Lauched last term, Wāwāhi Tahā | Time 4 Tamariki focuses on reducing teacher/student ratios and the ever-increasing work demands placed upon teachers, as well as ensuring tamariki with greater educational needs get the specialised support they require.
“It’s not about us,” she says. “It’s about the kids. They all deserve the best education and while we’re working as hard as we can to try to meet the needs of all our students, it’s awful to hear that some are falling through the cracks.
“You take that personally.”
She says while the campaign is a continuation of fixing long-standing issues in the education system it can also help solve social issues that can develop over time.
“If we get it right with our kids when they start at school, it makes it easier for others as they get older.
“We should be resourcing schools to shoot our students to the stars, and not arming society with the ambulance at the bottom of the hill.”
“You can save a lot of money and effort in the long term by getting it right at the start.”
Having been in the teaching profession for 35 years, she says the past two years dealing withCOVID-19 have been the most harrowing she’s seen for students, especially last term at her school St Michael’s in the Lower Hutt suburb of Taita.
The majority of students were affected by COVID-enforced absences, either because they were infected or were a household contact and she says much of this term will be trying to catch up.
“Last term was just months of rack and ruin,” she says. “We effectively lost 11 weeks. And that’s just continuing to add to the social and emotional challenges our children have been experiencing over the last two years.
“I’m hoping that now we’re in term two, we can get some really serious teaching done.”
While her chief concern is with her tamariki, she acknowledges that she is also worried about new and less-experienced teachers.
“It has really been a baptism by fire for them,” she says. “And I have real concerns about losing them to burnout if we don’t start to implement changes to the system now.
“One big change required is we need to make sure that we get non-contact time to prepare properly and to come up with engaging programmes for our tamariki.
“But that non-contact time for planning and assessing is not at 5.30 in the morning or 11.30 at night.”
It’s why she says it’s imperative that teachers get behind Wāwāhi Tahā | Time 4 Tamariki and look to get involved – either through talking to parents or looking to engage their local MPs tro drive the message home about why its important they change the system.
“I’ve got a great group of kids at my school and fantastic dedicated colleagues. It’s possibly the best school I’ve worked at in my career,” she says.
“And I want to make sure that we set our kids up for the future.
“When kids achieve, we achieve. That’s what our job is about. It’s about ensuring these children become successful members of the community.”