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LETTER TO EDITOR: Under pressure, high school staff offered ‘gift packs, massages and wellness checks’

Thursday 23 February 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


LETTER TO EDITOR: Under pressure, high school staff offered ‘gift packs, massages and wellness checks’

Dear Editor, I write in response to Mathew Littlewood’s article, “Under pressure high school staff offered ‘gift packs, massages and wellness checks”, of 22nd February 2023.

Firstly, I take this opportunity to correct Littlewood’s article and interpretation of recent correspondence.  I was approached for comment yesterday, (Tuesday, February 21)  of which I was happy to respond, however the article went to print before waiting for a response from the Ministry of Education and Tereora College.  At no point was the request for comment declined and had the journalist waited for a response the article would’ve had more substance. 

In 2021 the Ministry of Education first held staff wellbeing programmes across schools on Rarotonga as an effort to demonstrate the importance of teachers and staff caring for themselves and valuing their health and wellbeing as a priority. These consisted of health checks with Te Marae Ora and a range of wellness activities.  Such opportunities were well received with full participation, giving our Ministry valuable information to implement as part of a regular programme with schools, and based on their individual needs.  It is pleasing to see schools build from earlier interventions, and Tereora College are commended for prioritizing a wellness week so early in the academic year – an initiative the College has supported for a number of years. 

To further support Tereora College’s Wellness Week the school has long established a Student Support Centre which serves both students and staff, in which professional, confidential and health related services are available in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Te Marae Ora and the Cook Islands Family Welfare Association.   This opportunity mirrors the level of care currently available to all our schools, teachers and staff, through counselling services and wellbeing support.  Together with our education partners we are proud to offer sustained support in this vital area and efforts should not be underestimated. The Ministry is conducting further scoping of additional wellness programmes with a view of extending to other schools to build on the 2021 opportunity. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education will be welcoming new staff in the area of student and staff pastoral care in the coming monthsto bolster support available.

Lastly, Littlewood’s article has incorrectly referenced staff numbers at Tereora College. 

Presently the College has four vacancies, not the 20 alluded to by the journalist. Majority of these vacancies came about at the beginning of the 2023 academic year due to unexpected and late staff resignations, which are always difficult to manage when formally well executed plans and recruitment have been successful.

In these situations, teaching colleagues are looked on to cover responsibilities of staff who have left where appropriate. These arrangements are far from ideal but do reflect the resilience and professionalism of our teachers who are ensuring teaching and learning responsibilities are maintained.

The Ministry remains optimistic that these extra responsibilities are short term having received interest in teaching positions recently advertised and so will be progressing with interviews.

Meitaki Atupaka. 

Ms Danielle Cochrane

Secretary of Education

Editor’s note: Cook Islands News was supplied staff numbers at Tereora College.