Daniel Hawke from Youth Nelson is encouraging teachers to visit them on strike day. He is with students Kiana Shutkowski (15), Cannon Stewart-Hall (14) and Odin Graham (14). Photo: Kate Russell.

Challenge laid down for striking teachers

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While schools around Nelson close their doors for strike action next Wednesday, one lesser known education provider will remain open – helping the students who are perhaps the most difficult to reach.

Furthermore, they are encouraging teachers to spend the day with them – instead of heading to the picket line.

Now in their 21st year of operation, Youth Nelson provides education to 13-16-year olds for whom the mainstream school environment doesn’t suit.

Staff member Daniel Hawke has put out a call for teachers to come see what they do, in what he describes as a grossly underfunded, yet extremely valuable education service.

“If you’ve got time, come in, help us with some maths, read an essay, have a chat – spend some one on one time with a kid.”

All primary and secondary teachers in the region have voted to taken part in the education industry’s biggest ever strike on May 29.

Primary teachers have already gone on strike twice in this bargaining round – in August and November.

“We back the teachers. We understand what’s going on. We know what they need,” says Daniel.

“This is more of a call to attention to not just Youth Nelson, but to what all alternative education is going through.”

Youth Nelson have little staff turnover, with manager Maree Shalders being there for 20 years.

However, in this time, Daniel says there has been little or no funding change.

Although the Ministry of Education provides funding, it doesn’t cover the whole programme. They have to apply for extra funding to pay their staff and hold raffles to cover the cost of sports activities.

But Daniel says it isn’t just money that’s required.

“It’s the respect and the recognition of the ministry and our peers in the teaching industry.”

There are 17 students on their roll. They come from Nelson College, Nelson College for Girls and Nayland College.

“They are all here for various reasons,” Daniel says.

“People think they’re here because they are naughty kids. They’re not. None are involved in the youth justice system. Being in a big classroom just doesn’t work for them. They don’t get the attention or the relationships they need.

“Here, they do the work, because they do it for us. We’re they ones that are invested in them. They like our relationship. They like what happens here. These kids are doing some great things.”

On the afternoon of strike day, Daniel says they’ll be out playing touch at Sport Tasman.

“If there are any PE teachers out there, come out and have a game against the kids. They’d love it. That would mean the world to them, to have their old teachers come and play against them. That would be huge.”

You’ll find them at Sport Tasman from 1.45pm, otherwise they will be at their Washington Valley premises from 8am.

“We’d like to make it really clear that we’re behind the teachers, but we need their support. Ours is only a little voice and its not heard very well. We’re just worried about getting trampled on.”

Youth Nelson is located at 26 Washington Rd, next to Pioneer Park. You can reach them at youthnelson@xtra.co.nz