Kaiāwhina KaiakoAlternative titles
Teacher aides support children's learning at school. They assist teachers in a classroom by working with students on a one-to-one basis, or in groups. Some teacher aides work in the school library or the ICT suite.
Teacher aides usually earn
$15-$24 per hour
Source: New Zealand Educational Institute and Ministry of Education.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Pay for teacher aides and special education assistants varies depending on experience, qualifications and responsibilities.
Teacher aides can work up through a graded salary scale, usually progressing up a step each year within their grade:
- Grade A has two steps: starting on $15.26 an hour and going up to a maximum of $15.58 an hour.
- Grade B has eight steps: starting on $15.58 an hour and going up to a maximum of $19.29 an hour.
- Grade C has eight step: starting on $19.29 an hour and going up to a maximum of $23.95 an hour.
Pay rates for special education assistants
Special education assistants work alongside a teacher or a therapist, with children who have a physical disability. They have a two-step salary scale:
- They start on $14.79 an hour.
- After one year, they can earn a maximum of $15.44 an hour.
Sources: New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI), 'Collective Agreement for Support Staff in Schools, 7 June 2014 - 5 December 2016', 'Collective Agreement for Special Education Assistants, 6 June 2014 - 5 December 2016', and Ministry of Education.
What you will do
Teacher aides may do some or all of the following:
- work with students one-to-one, and in small groups, following a programme prepared by the teacher
- help with extra activities, such as physical exercise or physiotherapy
- meet with teachers and parents to discuss students' progress
- help teachers plan lessons for students with special educational needs
- give medication to students who need it
- assist with personal care for a student, such as toileting or eating.
Skills and knowledge
Teacher aides need to have:
- knowledge of working with and implementing programmes for students who have special needs
- an understanding of the school curriculum and the subject areas in which they work
- an understanding of different teaching methods and learning styles
- an understanding of child learning and development
- knowledge of safety and emergency procedures
- first aid skills.
- usually work between a few hours to 30 hours a week. Their work hours fall within school hours, from about 8.30am until 3.30pm, but they occasionally attend meetings outside these hours
- work in school classrooms, libraries, computer suites and playgrounds
- usually work with students who have learning or behavioural difficulties, or special physical needs, so the work can be challenging and demanding at times
- may take students on visits to places in the community, such as the library or the shops, often taking public transport to help students develop appropriate skills.
What's the job really like?
Matt Benassi - Teacher Aide
Maths and ice cream a cool blend
"I have a passion for seeing other people learn," says teacher aide Matt Benassi. He works alongside secondary student James, who has cerebral palsy, and does all James’ writing for him, as well as interpreting information from teachers in a way that James can easily understand.
"James is amazing, especially when he surprises me. When we are in a maths class and he gets a problem that some adults can't even do, I just love it! We have this game – if he gets a hard question right, I give him points, if he does something silly, I give myself a point. Whoever gets to five points owes the other an ice cream. Right now, he owes me an ice cream and I owe him one!"
Nailing unexpected problems
Thinking on your feet is definitely a quality that teacher aides need, says Matt. "On one of our trips out James' electric wheelchair got a flat tyre from a nail and we were stuck in the street for ages. In the end I managed to contact his dad who brought the manual wheelchair and James and I ended up having a good laugh about it."
There are no specific requirements to become a teacher aide, but a relevant qualification such as a certificate in teacher aiding or diploma in education support, and relevant experience, may be preferred by employers.
Teacher aides must also undergo a police background check.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
- Children’s Action Plan website - overview of restrictions on working with children
- New Zealand Legislation website - information on serious convictions that prevent employment with children
A minimum of three years of secondary education is preferred.
Teacher aides need to be:
- skilled at communicating with children and adults
- practical, organised and able to solve problems
- understanding and patient
- adaptable and creative
- able to relate to people from a range of cultures
- able to work well as part of a team.
You need to have a lot of patience – that's probably the number one virtue for a teacher aide. If you have that then you have an unlimited ability to help your student learn. Being flexible is also really important, as you never know what direction the day is going to head in.
Matt Benassi - Teacher Aide
Useful experience for teacher aides includes:
- childcare work
- working with people with a disability
Teacher aides need to be reasonably fit as they may need to carry out physical tasks, such as helping students with disabilities to move around or complete physiotherapy exercises.Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of getting work are best if you have experience and/or a qualification relevant to working with children or young people.
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, teacher aide numbers grew slightly between Dec 2010 and Dec 2012.
Vacancies quite common, but competition for them high
Teacher aide vacancies come up reasonably often, but are usually part time.
Because teacher aides only work during school terms, the job is attractive to those wishing to work family-friendly hours in their local neighbourhood. This means competition is usually strong for the vacancies that arise.
Types of employers varied
Teacher aides work in:
- primary and intermediate schools (67% of teacher aides)
- secondary schools (26%)
- special schools (7%).
These schools may be run by the state or by independent and private education providers.
You can also work in the early childhood sector as a special education support worker, doing a role similar to teacher aide.
- Laybourne, M, adviser, Ministry of Education, Careers New Zealand interview, July 2011.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and Ministry of Education, 'School Support Staff: Collectively Making Resources Count', May 2011, (www.nzei.org.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Teacher aides may progress to work in special schools or learning support units. Some teacher aides go on to complete teacher training qualifications.
Teacher aides may also specialise in special education.
- Special Education Assistant
- Special education assistants work alongside a teacher or a therapist, with children who have a physical disability.
Last updated 22 September 2015