Education Minister Nikki Kaye on Monday announced a $3 million package to ease Auckland teaching shortages, allocating $1 million to double the capacity of the Auckland Beginner Teacher Project, which at the moment supports up to 40 beginning or provisionally registered teachers to secure roles in Auckland primary schools.”

The other $2 million dollars will be spent incentivising overseas-trained teachers or returning expat New Zealand-trained teachers to relocate.

The announcement closely follows the release of a report from the NZEI highlighting the fact that a staggering two thirds of Auckland teachers are considering leaving the region because teaching salaries aren’t sufficient to meet the high cost of living.

Why does nobody know about the Voluntary Bonding Scheme?

NZEI president Lynda Stuart says the government has been ignoring a scheme set up in 2009 that could be a potent tool in addressing Auckland teacher shortages.

The Voluntary Bonding Scheme awards newly graduated teachers $3500 per year for up to five years if they commit to teaching in a decile 1 school for at least the first three years of their career.

Stuart says also that the majority of their member teachers and principals are unaware such a scheme exists, and are “furious” that teachers in the region are missing out.

Ms Kaye has confirmed today in a press release that the Ministry has been instructed to review the scheme.

At the time the scheme was announced in 2009, then-Minister of Education Anne Tolley said that nearly 1800 teachers per year may be eligible. Yet the NZ Herald reports that only 283 teachers were accepted into the scheme in 2012, a number which has gone down every year since, to 131 last year and only 59 so far this year.

Mrs Stuart, who is on leave from her role as Principal at May Road School in Mt Roskill, said that some schools in Auckland are so strapped for teachers that they were doubling up classes or considering sending students home. 

“It is bizarre that while there is so much publicity about the teacher supply crisis, the Government has kept quiet about a major tool for helping to address it,” she said.

A spokesperson for Minister of Education Nikki Kaye told Education Central that promotion of initiatives like the Voluntary Bonding Scheme is the responsibility of Ministry of Education personnel, and that “she has asked the Ministry to review [the scheme], so you can infer from that she is very interested in how the scheme has been administered… but more importantly how it can be made to better reflect the current situation.”

In response to questions regarding why the Ministry hasn’t been actively promoting the Voluntary Bonding Scheme, Deputy Secretary of Education Pauline Cleaver said in a statement:

“The Scheme was introduced in 2009. Subsequently teacher supply eased and teacher vacancies fell. This made it more difficult for new teaching graduates to find teaching positions as they were competing with large numbers of experienced teachers for any vacancy available.

“The Ministry provides information about the Voluntary Bonding Scheme through our websites and through providing material about becoming a teacher, and in recruitment information for schools.”

NZEI president Lynda Stuart says it’s a mystery to her why the scheme hasn’t been adequately promoted, given the press coverage that teacher shortages have received in recent times.

“I don’t know why the Voluntary Bonding Scheme hasn’t been promoted, you’d have to ask the Ministry that. I would say though, one would think that, when the Government and the Ministry know that there are staffing shortages in particular areas, that they would be looking to all available avenues that they’ve currently got in place to signal opportunities for people to access incentives that are going to promote getting teachers into schools.”

Mrs Stuart says she feels strongly that a properly run and resourced Voluntary Bonding Scheme could make a huge difference in those areas that are struggling to find teachers, in part because it’s a system that has worked in the past. She says also that eligibility for the VBS needs to be looked at again, because the ground has shifted since the scheme was announced.

“We’ve got a list of 300-and-something schools that were considered ‘hard-to-staff’ at the time, but I think the situation has moved a lot further in the last 18 months to one year: that number has significantly risen. It’s something that really needs to be promoted further.”

“[Bonding schemes] seemed to work back then. I think we’ve got a situation where teachers are coming into the first years of their careers with significant debt, so bonding would allow them to pay some of that off. It also means that teachers are encouraged to stay in these settings for a length of time, which creates stability in schools that really need it.”

 

 

 

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