Trust supports pupils needing extra help

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Supporting children to stand tall despite educational challenges is the aim of a Cromwell-based group.
The Central and Southern Kids Educational Trust helps children who need extra attention at school by funding teacher aides, therapy and other professional help.
President Larissa Patchett said the trust was begun in 2001 by a group of parents, originally focusing on help for autistic children, but now they supported children with a range of learning challenges.
‘‘We decided to open our umbrella and include these kids and their families.’’
Mrs Patchett said the trust helped about 10 children a year but they were looking to support more across Queenstown, Wanaka and Central Otago.
‘‘Anyone can approach us and we will try to help them the best way we can.’’
Parents seeking help or people wishing to volunteer could find further details by emailing kids.ed.trust@gmail.com.
Treasurer Odette Hopgood­Bride said the trust raised funds of about $40,000 to $60,000 each year by providing catering and marshalling services at regional events.
It had also received funding from the Central Lakes Trust and Pub Charity.
Although the Ministry of Education provided some funds for teacher aides, the trust was able to ‘‘top up’’ the amount of aid available to a child at school, so teacher aides could help for many more hours.
Cath Forsyth, of Cromwell, was one of the founders of the trust when it began in 2001, inspired by her personal experience of having a son with autism.
‘‘My son is now 23 and we always battled to get help for him.
‘‘When you have got a child with autism, time is of the essence so you’ve got to keep working to help them, and if the money isn’t there from the Government then you just have to try to find it yourself.’’
It would be very difficult for teachers if they did not have the help the trust provided, she said.
As a teacher herself, she said it was invaluable to have teacher aides in the classroom, and the parents involved in the trust were ‘‘very dedicated’’.
‘‘They are very generous with their time.’’
Ministry of Education deputy secretary of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said about $158 million in Learning Support funding was provided to schools in 2018.
‘‘Access to Learning Support is not dependent on specific diagnosis but on a student’s individual needs,’’ she said.
Schools could choose to employ additional teacher aides, or increase teacher aide hours through their operations grant.
The number of pupils with learning support needs was growing and teacher aide funding had increased in recent years.
In November, the ministry settled the support staff in schools’ collective agreement and teacher aides were covered by this agreement, meaning they would now earn at least $21.15 per hour.
‘‘To support this agreement we’ll be increasing the funding which supports these staff,’’ she said.