A year on, Clare Tiafariu is recalling her dream start as a teacher.

“I was blessed”, she says. “While so many of my fellow graduates were feeling the shock of a new workplace and a class filled with new students, I was being carefully eased into the role.”

Alongside her Principal at Fruitvale School in West Auckland, Clare is recounting how she spent her first week on the job. She was in a new entrant classroom observing her “truly amazing” mentor teacher. From week two she began to share the load, taking the maths or reading groups in an adjacent classroom where she now teaches full-time.

“It wasn’t until week 7 that I had my own class fulltime”, says Clare. “I was able to use that first 6 weeks learning the Fruitvale way; getting to know the systems. It was so good having a tuakana-teina relationship with a brilliant teacher that allowed me to ease into the role. By the time I had my own class I knew the children and many of their parents. It was such a great way to start teaching.”

Clare’s experience was possible because of the Auckland Beginning Teacher Project, a scheme proposed by Auckland Principals and adopted by the Ministry of Education in 2017. Under the Project, schools that anticipate roll growth are able to employ an additional beginning teacher, over their entitlement. The Ministry facilitates this by paying half of the beginning teacher’s salary ($24,000). 37 teachers were employed under the project in 2017.

Donal McLean, the Principal at Fruitvale School and a member of the Auckland Principals’ Association’s Council, is an enthusiastic supporter of the project.

“Last year it enabled us to plan ahead for growth, knowing we had a really great teacher ready to slot in who we had mentored into the role. Our experience with Clare gave us confidence to apply to the programme again this year.”

In accepting the Ministry’s financial support, schools involved in the project guarantee the beginning teacher a permanent position or fixed term position for at least two years. It is a feature of the scheme that particularly attracted Clare who had resigned from a well remunerated position as a long-haul flight attendant to become a teacher.

“I’d spent a lot of time in the Pacific and fell in love with Pacific peoples and their generosity. I wanted to give back; to make a difference, and teaching seemed a way to do that.”

A year off studying and a significant drop in salary were a sacrifice Clare was prepared to make, but she needed to go in to a secure position once she had trained.

“So many jobs out there are fixed term for one or two years”, she says.

“That wasn’t going to work for me.  I wanted to be certificated at the end of two years and I knew that fixed term positions would make that difficult. That’s why, when I heard about the Project, I targeted those positions.”

Clare has sympathy for many of her fellow graduates who ended last year re-applying for their jobs or seeking out new positions. Starting out in teaching is hard enough without the stress of insecure employment.

As enthusiastic supporters of the Auckland Beginning Teacher Project, both Clare and Donal are surprised that numbers of applicants to the Ministry have fallen this year.

“This is an excellent way to bring new teachers into the profession”, say Donal. “It’s good for the new educators and it’s good for the school. I’d encourage more schools to get involved.”

The Ministry has provided funding for an additional 18 positions this year. Schools can express their interest in the project by completing an application form that is available from the Auckland Primary Principals Association by request via email (appavoice@gmail.com).

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