The voluntary bonding scheme was set up to get beginner teachers into low decile and remote schools. Under the scheme, eligible teachers get $10,500 at the end of their third year teaching at a low-decile or remote school. They get a further $3500 at the end of their fourth and fifth years.

Despite the scheme being on offer to teachers since 2009, it emerged this week that only 12 people applied for it last year. The low application rate is thought to be because the scheme wasn’t widely publicised by the Ministry of Education.

However, after the NZEI became aware of the scheme it encouraged its members to enquire about it. In the last few days, more than 2000 teachers have used NZEI’s online tool which checks whether they are likely to be eligible. Of those, 320 have asked NZEI to help them with their application. The union is also asking the Ministry for back-pay for the teachers who missed out through not knowing about the scheme.

This week Education Minister Nikki Kaye met with Auckland principals and promised that as part of the Ministry of Education’s initiatives to address teacher workforce issues in Auckland, it would broaden the scope of the voluntary bonding scheme to encompass teachers working in any Auckland school from next year, although it was possible the amount of money might be slightly less.

While the details of the initiative are yet to be confirmed, the news has been welcomed by Auckland principals and the NZEI Te Riu Roa. However, the union says a considered workforce plan is what is really needed to address teacher supply and demand, rather than “knee jerk policy”.

“It’s great that the Minister is looking to some solutions for the Auckland teacher shortage, but there still needs to be an additional incentive for teachers in low-decile schools which have the hardest job recruiting and retaining staff,” said NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart.

“There are particular challenges in low-decile and remote schools throughout the country and we need to make sure that the learners at these schools are getting the best deal possible.”

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