September 27, 2006
Support Staff Endorse Physical Contact Guidelines
Support staff who work with children in schools and early childhood education centres, have today endorsed NZEI’s new guidelines on physical contact with students.
The guidelines were launched at NZEI’s Annual Meeting in Wellington yesterday. They cover the union’s 45,000 members who work as teachers, support staff and special education staff.
They were developed after extensive discussions among NZEI members and recognise that they will come into physical contact with children and students during their work.
The guidelines state: “This is acceptable when carried out in a professional and responsible manner that is age appropriate.” They advise NZEI members “to use common sense in all areas of their interaction with children and be mindful of situations that may expose themselves to unnecessary risk.”
NZEI has more than 10,000 support staff members who work in a wide range of jobs, including teacher aides, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and nurses. They work in close contact with students, particularly students with special needs.
NZEI National Executive member, Mahoney Topia, works as an occupational therapist in Auckland, at Carlson School for students with cerebral palsy.
“Ninety per cent of the school’s students are in wheelchairs,” says Mahoney Topia. “This means the support staff are required to work in very close physical contact with the students.”
“And there are thousands of children with special needs, thoughout the country, who rely on support staff to provide them with the assistance they need to attend school and receive a quality education.”
“Support staff were involved in developing the guidelines, and we welcome them, as they recognise the degree of physical contact involved in our work.”
“They also provide the freedom for schools and early childhood education centres to develop policies on physical contact, that suit the needs of their students, staff, families and whanau,” says Mahoney Topia.