By: Simon Collins

Balmoral School principal Malcolm Milner says Auckland schools face “a perfect storm” of factors driving an unprecedented teacher shortage. File photo

Auckland’s primary teacher shortage has hit a new record as schools face a “perfect storm” of record migrant inflows, declining teacher trainees, and an exodus of staff who can’t afford the city’s housing costs.

The latest online edition of the Education Gazette lists 225 advertisements for at least 287 primary and intermediate teachers in Auckland, based on counting two vacancies for all notices that advertise more than one vacancy but don’t specify how many jobs are vacant.

Data using the same methodology for the first Gazette in October over the past 13 years, provided by the NZ Educational Institute, show that the previous peak was 216 vacancies in October 2008.

Vacancies dropped to a low of 117 in October 2012, when New Zealand had a net migrant outflow to fuel a mining boom in Australia, but rose to 213 last October, and now 287, as migration has rebounded to record net inflows of about 70,000 a year.

Auckland alone had a record net inflow of 36,650 migrants in the year to June. This has been partly offset by a declining local birth rate, but school rolls across the region increased by 3568 in the year to July 1.
The migration inflow has also pushed up house prices and rents, driving teachers out of Auckland to more affordable places, while teacher trainees have dwindled from 13,615 in 2012 to 9750 in 2015 because of a booming general job market which has lured young people out of all tertiary education.

Balmoral School principal Malcolm Milner, who initiated a principals’ appeal to Auckland Council two weeks ago, said seven of his 52 teachers had given notice that they were leaving at the end of this year.

“You have this perfect storm going on,” he said.

“We have been talking to the Ministry [of Education] for three years about this looming crisis, as professional bodies and as involved principals, and they haven’t taken it on board.”

John Faire of Mt Eden Normal School said he lost nine teachers at the end of last year, including six who left “because they could not afford to live in Auckland”.

He has replaced them all, but had only between three and 10 applicants for each job instead of having 80 or 90 to choose from as in past years.

“Now it’s mainly beginning teachers who are applying. We are spending a lot of resource on those people,” he said.

“In the long term this will damage the reputation of Auckland in terms of international students. If secondary schools, and even primaries, lose those, we’ll be in real trouble.”

Macleans College principal Byron Bentley said the shortage was the worst he had seen in 24 years as a principal and he was being forced to recruit overseas.

“If we were just relying on NZ graduates coming through, there are not enough by hundreds and hundreds,” he said.

The Gazette currently lists 193 secondary teacher vacancies in Auckland and 661 nationally.

Secondary vacancies listed nationally in the last Gazette in September have been flat at between 300 and 400 in every year since 2009, but cumulative vacancies listed between January and September have risen from a low of 1246 in 2013 to 1971 this year, the highest for at least nine years.

More than 100,000 people have watched a video posted on Facebook by technology entrepreneur Derek Handley estimating that Auckland is short of 3000 teachers to cope with population growth since 2006.

However Auckland fulltime-equivalent teachers have actually grown faster (up 14.5 per cent) since 2006 than school rolls (up 8 per cent).

Education Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said advertised vacancies were not a good measure of shortages because they included teachers moving between schools.

“We are working on developing an improved and more efficient system to collect workforce data,” she said.

Schools were given their indicative staffing entitlements for next year on September 12, so vacancies advertised in October are traditionally an indicator of shortages. But this year many schools have advertised earlier in the year rather than miss out.

Source: NZ Herald


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