23 Jul 2014

Pasifika teachers burning out - PPTA

10:11 am on 23 July 2014

Pasifika secondary teachers are burning out from increased pressure to lift National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results for Pasifika students, their union says.

The Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) is calling for a greater effort from the Ministry of Education to recruit more Pasifika teachers, and from schools to lighten their workload - a workload which is all too familiar to Tu'u Bell, who teaches at Manurewa's James Cook High School.

"Especially here in Auckland, we have the PolyFest, then generally they always look at Pasifika teachers to do that," she said.

"Also, when our Pasifika students are misbehaving, they do refer them to us. And then there is the parents' expectation, as well."

St Peter's College students perform on the Samoan stage at Polyfest.

St Peter's College students perform on the Samoan stage at Polyfest. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The extra work was mostly unpaid and voluntary, and now included extra academic tutoring for Pasifika students; Ms Bell tutored for four hours every Saturday and said most Pasifika colleagues taught after-school classes.

Ms Bell said schools with big Pasifika rolls and teaching colleagues could do more to help.

"If you don't know the culture, it would be nice to train certain people or come alongside us, so they know, and we just relinquish that responsibility and give us a bit of relief."

Southern Cross Campus teacher Clint Samaseia said part of the problem was a mistaken belief that only Pasifika teachers could deal with Pasifika students.

"They expect me to come in and do an 'island', or Pasifika, growling to them and remind them to listen, make sure they focus on the task at hand," he said.

"When you think about teaching practice, it's like these are the normal things you would have to focus on and find solutions for."

PPTA Komiti Pasifika chair Natalie Faitala said the workload was getting worse with the Government's push to lift Pasifika achievement and close the gaps with other ethnicities.

"It's not something that they're reluctant to give, because they're really willing to do as much as they can for Pasifika students and to make sure that they are able to succeed to their full potential, but teachers are feeling really burned out by it."

Pasifika made up nearly 8 percent of the student population but less than 3 percent of all teachers, and the Ministry of Education and schools needed to do more to support them, she said.

"At some schools they do have a Pasifika dean, and other management areas of support but it's not widespread, so it's just something that schools need to address if they really want to increase the achievement outcomes of their Pasifika students."

A Ministry of Education spokesperson said it acknowledged the shortage of Pasifika teachers and was doing what it could to recruit more, including offering Pasifika teaching scholarships.

It was also drawing up guidelines for Pasifika cultural competency for all teachers, and looking at how to improve support for Pasifika teachers and the number of Pasifika principals.

Pasifika cushion covers and lava lava.

Pasifika cushion covers and lava lava. Photo: PHOTO NZ