By: Simon Collins

Education Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo/Mark Mitchel

School principals say they are getting zero applicants for some teaching jobs as the teacher shortage intensifies.

A new survey has found that 64 per cent of Auckland secondary principals now say it is “much harder” to recruit teachers than it was two years ago, up from 49 per cent in the last survey in August.

“For the first time ever, I had NO applications from beginning teachers for permanent fulltime jobs,” one principal said.

Another received one application for a head of maths role but the candidate declined the offer and the principal said: “The second time around I have received zero applications [the job closed today].”

Susan Dunlop, principal of Yendarra Primary School in Ōtara, told the Herald she advertised last month to fill four vacancies and “didn’t get a single nibble”.

Her decile 1 school of 360 students is entitled to 17 classroom teachers but started this year with only 15 and dropped to 14 in mid-year when one teacher left and could not be replaced.

“I have been a principal for more than two decades, and there have been other times when it has been a struggle, but never anything like this,” she said.

She said Yendarra depended on recruiting beginning teachers and many moved on within two years.

“We have a maternity leave position, we have people moving out of Auckland, and also young people might give us two years and then there are greener pastures in their eyes, and you wish them well,” she said.

She has had to cover the staff shortage by giving her remaining teachers bigger classes, and will have to do the same again if she can’t fill her four vacancies for next year. But she is still looking.

“Miracles do occur,” she said. “You have to be optimistic for your kids. We’ve still got a few weeks to go, haven’t we?”

Secondary Principals’ Association (SPANZ) president Mike Williams said schools needed policy changes immediately if they were to have any effect on staffing for the start of the 2018 school year.

New Education Minister Chris Hipkins has promised a pre-Christmas package to tackle the shortage, but Williams said Christmas would be too late.

“If he leaves it till Christmas Day or the start of next year, it’s not going to do anything, so there is some real urgency around this.”

The new survey was designed by SPANZ and the Post Primary Teachers Association’s Secondary Principals Council as a quick follow-up to their August survey, with fewer questions. Only 126 of the country’s 331 secondary schools responded, down from 180 in August, so the results may be skewed.

Nationally, the numbers saying it’s “much harder” to recruit teachers have doubled in three months, from 22 per cent in August to 44 per cent.

Almost all (94 per cent) of the 25 Auckland principals who responded to the survey, and 80 per cent of principals nationally, said they had had to make compromises to fill positions, such as appointing teachers without relevant subject qualifications or with “concerns that would normally have precluded appointment”.

The 126 schools that responded reported 210 advertised jobs which they had not been able to fill externally.

Williams said he was concerned that Hipkins had not confirmed two measures announced by former minister Nikki Kaye before the election – a relocation grant of up to $7000 for Kiwi expatriate and foreign teachers coming from overseas to take jobs in “hard-to-staff areas, subjects or schools”, and extending a student loan write-off of up to $17,500 for beginning teachers from low-decile schools to all Auckland schools.

Criteria for the relocation grant has still not been released, and the loan write-off extension did not reach the previous Cabinet before the election.

“We fear that that’s been axed by the new Government, ” Williams said.

“We are also very concerned about the trend of falling numbers of students into initial teacher education over the last few years. We expect it to be down again in 2018, so that means for [the start of] 2019 we will have even fewer graduates coming out to fill the jobs.”

Hipkins said he was still “awaiting a further briefing” from officials and had nothing to add at this stage to what he has said before about a pre-Christmas package.

Source: NZ Herald

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