Schools Absolute support

ES rep Meredith Azam celebrates her nomination with colleagues Jordan Marie (left) and Deepthi. Photo: Helen Stanley

Nominated by colleagues for Australian Teacher Aide of the Year in 2023, education support rep Meredith Azam is making sure everyone in her school has a voice, writes LOUISE SWINN.

As the education support rep at Ramlegh Park Primary School, Meredith Azam is clearly getting a kick out of the role. “I just enjoy the fact that I can help the ES staff when they come to me with questions. I am pretty good with the agreement now.”

She says that being across all the issues, and the ins and outs of the Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA 2022), is an important way for teams to support each other in the workplace. “The more people understand their rights and responsibilities, the more we can support each other. If it’s just one person taking things to leadership, it’s hard to get those things through. But if you have more people raising those issues, it’s a better way of doing things.”

Meredith, who has been at her school for three years and a member of the AEU for nine, has completed the Level 1 AEU reps training, attends regional meetings online, and has been to webinars on attendance and supervision for ES staff. She found the ES-specific training especially useful. 

“It helped give me the knowledge and confidence to discuss any concerns we have had about the new agreement. For example, ES supervision ratios and how many students can be supervised within the classroom. Through consultation and discussions with leadership, we have been able to meet the agreement and support our students more effectively. The training has been a great help for me to understand how I can support other members across the school.” 

Meredith discovered, during AEU training, that some of their supervision groups were too large, according to the VGSA 2022, so she was able to take that to her school leadership – with great success. She found her school’s management team very open to the discussion. 

“I love the school. I’ve never had a more supportive management. They are approachable. We can go in there and let it all out and have a cry if we need to. The door’s always open; they are really supportive of the staff. They are the first ones there to step in and help out. They will drop everything. We are a big family.”

“I just enjoy the fact that I can help the ES staff when they come to me with questions.”

She is very aware of the issues her colleagues are facing across the board. “For all school staff, the biggest challenge is not having enough time. There are not enough hours in the day. Shortages don’t help, because you have a lot of split classes and it’s hard to get CRTs in. Since the COVID lockdowns, there seems to be a shift in the way some of our younger students interact. There appears to be a lack of positive social skills.”

AEU organiser Helen Stanley says that Meredith, who was nominated for 2023 Australian Teacher Aide of the Year, is well regarded amongst the staff at Ramlegh Park PS, and “recognised as a resourceful, supportive rep”.

Meredith was pleased to be recognised for the work she puts in. “I am part of the ES mentoring team, where myself and two other experienced education support workers guide and support our ES team throughout the year. We run training sessions in literacy and maths, and carry out peer observations to provide feedback on professional practice.”

Meredith is also the ES rep on the school’s consultative committee, who meet every fortnight in the weeks leading up to finalising the school’s annual long-term planning document. “It’s myself, and some people from leadership, and teachers from different year levels, to make sure everyone has a voice. I nominated myself, to make sure the ES team has a voice in the consultative process. It’s been really good to have that many people on consultative committee.”

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