On Anzac day the #Betterfunding camper van made its way to the Coromandel with members Michelle Ryan, Jo Beldham, Melanie Dorrian and Carol Webb aboard.
First stop was in at the Goldfields shopping centre in Thames, where they were joined by Greens Education spokesperson and stalwart supporter of the campaign Catherine Delahunty. The team also took an opportunity to take a photograph outside Te Puru School which recently featured in a Hauraki Herald article supporting an end of the funding freeze.
Early on Wednesday the van crossed the range and made its way to Whitianga, parking up outside a local children’s playground and then holding conversations with locals as they made their way to and from the ferry. There was a visit from the photographer for the Mercury Bay Informer and then we recrossed the range to visit sleepy Coromandel town.
Late afternoon we headed back across the range once more, leaving our mark on beautiful Matarangi Beach, before making our way to Waihi where we will start the day on Thursday.
In a day of high sunshine before the deluge, the #Betterfunding van headed into South Auckland.
The morning began early at Willowbank School in Botany where Principal Diedre Alderson and Worksite Rep Jordan Priestley hailed down parents and explained to them the issues around the funding freeze. In a short time over 100 signatures were committed to the petition and to postcards for the Minister.
Then it was off to Ferguson Intermediate where WSR Lesa Arthur and her colleagues had already added 120 signatures to the petition. Classes were in session but Principal Sisi Key called out all support staff to pose for a photo and a chance to talk about the campaign. It was great to here the enthusiasm of these hard working professionals.
A flying visit to Sir Edmund Hillary campus yielded more completed petition forms and then it was off to Otara Town Centre where retired Principal Lois Kirkbride joined us to talk with locals. It was brilliant to have Lois involved, having conversations with old pupils and parents alike. Some of the old pupils were MIT students on their break who readily understood the need for adequate funding of schools and centres. Many parents and grandparents talked about the rising costs of schooling and ECE and how this impacted whanau.
The afternoon ended with a visit to Robertson Road School in Mangere where there was a fortuitous meeting with the BOT chair who spoke of the need for additional support staff across the school. The signatures gathered there brought the days’ total up to around 500. Excellent!
Over three days, the Heartland Tour battle bus has been in central, west and south Auckland, garnering support from ordinary Kiwis and from politicians alike.
Labour Deputy Jacinda Adern may have a new electorate but that didn’t stop her making an early morning visit to her old stomping ground at Newton Central School. It was soon obvious she’s still a favourite here, as locals greeted her and signed the Support Staff petition she presented to them. She took time out to talk with Principal Riki Teteina about the struggle to meet the needs of all students during a freeze of funding.
Later in the day Michael Wood MP visited May Road School, signalling his on-going support for #Betterfunding of schools and a reversal of the freeze that has compromised ECE since 2010.
In the west, Phil Twyford MP joined the campaign in down-town Henderson to get petition signatures, before visiting Edmonton School to show his support to teachers and support staff.
It was a very early start on Saturday at the Mangere Market. Field Officer Mereana Epi Mana and several of her colleagues from Komiti Pasifika worked the shoppers to gather a record number of signatures of support.
On Monday the van was again in the South. Green Party MP Marama Davidson joined us at Homai Primary, reinforcing the support she’d demonstrated in turning out for the support staff PUMs. Then after a lunchtime in Manurewa shopping centre the van went to Rowandale School where Principal Karl Vasau and his staff turned out to gather parent support. In this they were joined by local MP Louisa Wall – a staunch advocate for centralised funding of support staff.
On the day Cyclone Debbie’s tail lashed the supercity the heartland Tour van headed for the mid-west. The day began with a hint of sunshine at Blockhouse Bay Primary where children lined up for stickers as their parents signed the petition and postcards. Soon they were joined by the staff who posed for a photo beside the van and signed one of the large cards to deliver to new MP Michael Wood.
Soon after the weather bomb burst and the van delayed it’s visit to New Windsor school.
It was worth the wait as we were met with an enthusiastic team of support staff and teachers who also have a plan of action for engaging with their MP.
Early morning saw the team at May Road School before visiting the NZEI offices to meet up with REGAL members involved in their termly workshop. The activism of this group is always assured and they took time out from preparing a submission to the Minister to sign on for #Betterfunding. As luck would have it a group of Principals doing media training were on hand to add their signatures.
At the end of the school day the van was at Owairaka school in Mount Albert. Support Staff Rep Foram Shah was a sight to behold flagging down parents and caregivers from many cultures and motivating them to sign the Support Staff petition. It was great to see so many new immigrant and refugee parents keen to learn about the cause of #Betterfunding.
Before hitting the supercity proper the #Betterfunding van spent a day in the North West rural area on the southern Kaipara and everywhere it was met with support. We’ve said it before: people in the provinces get the need for fair and equitable funding of education. They know that cuts to schooling and pre-school bite particularly hard in smaller communities.
Early in the day Melissa Jackson from Waimauku School joined Tony Dunn and Chris Stuart on the van visiting Waimauku Shool and kindergarten.
It was then on to Helensville Primary and Parakai School where teaching and support staff turned out to show their support. The day ended at Kaipara College, where Teacher Aide Lee Fitzsimmons summarised the thoughts of all when she expressed concerns about the impact of poor funding decisions on vulnerable children.
After the rain in Rodney the Hibiscus Coast welcomed the Heartland Tour with sunshine as the team began early at Stanmore Bay School. Branch stalwart Julie Cooney, worksite rep Fran McFall and Branch President Claire Hunt worked the arriving parent community and by start of school had added 120 new signatures to our Support Staff petition.
Before our next scheduled spot we made a dash to Whangaparoa College to drop off materials at the invitation of Principal James Thomas. We then made a flying visit Fantails ECE before reaching Silverdale Primary in time for morning tea where teachers and support staff posed in front of the #Betterfunding van. They’re committed to taking large postcards out to thei community for signing and looking forward to presenting them to their MP.
Lunchtime saw the #Betterfunding bus in Orewa township where it was joined by support staff and teachers from Orewa North Primary. The conversations with shoppers were invaluable and the signatures flowed.
Our last school visit was to Stella Maris where a group of teachers and support staff engaged with large numbers of parents picking up their children. From there the battle van travelled to an autism workshop where sixty plus committed professionals needed no persuading to give support to the campaign to end the freeze and adequately fund our tamariki.
It bucketed down in Rodney but the Heartland Tour went on. In the carpark at Mangawhai Beach school, field Officer Heather Holmes and Branch President Michelle Dempsey sloshed about while gathering a good number of petition signatures from parents dropping off their children. The usual ‘hug, drop and roll’ was completely disrupted.
Staff turned out for a photo before the #Betterfunding campervan headed off to Kaiwaka Primary for a morning tea catch-up with teachers and support staff. After signing the petition themselves the staff undertook to take a couple of large postcards out into their community that they’ll deliver to their local MPs.
At our next stop the Tomarata school Principal Lynne Duffin and her staff had already covered the office area with #Betterfunding signage and have a plan for building community support.
In the main street of Wellsford wet shoppers joined in the conversation about funding our schools. These communities get the importance of adequate and equitable funding of children’s education. Then it was on to enthusiastic welcomes at Rodney College and Wellsford Primary where even the bin monitors proclaimed the Operations Grant freeze complete rubbish. A great result in trying weather!
Plenty of media coverage of the Better Funding Better Learning campaign in the Far North. The Northern Advocate newspaper here caught up with the van at Hora Hora School in Whangarei where staff and principal are strong advocates on behalf of their pupils.
The Northland tour continues this week through Te Taitokerau, visiting Whangarei schools then Dargaville, Northern Wairoa and Rodney district before arriving in Auckland.
There is a high level of frustration among support staff in Northland – with eight paid union meetings to date telling the same story.
“I believe this is important,” says Leanne Isaac, Pukepoto School support staff member, “because at our school we have lost teacher aides due to not enough hours or days also due to lack of funding. I have also as admin lost a day which is a financial burden so I also have to make ends meet on what I receive or find another job to make up for for the day I have lost.”
There was also a lot of energy at the Northland meetings, lots of postcards to MPs signed and signatures added to the national petition. The issues are not going to go away as support staff committed to getting their local MPs to walk in their shoes for a day and see what the job’s like.