The early childhood education sector is also acutely feeling the effects of the teacher shortage with sector groups calling for urgent Government action.
“Teacher shortages aren’t limited to schools” said NZ Kindergartens chief executive Clare Wells. “There is also an urgent need to address the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers in early childhood education (ECE).”
Wells says while the Ministry of Education’s plans to recruit more teachers into schools is a welcome ‘quick fix’ there is no such offer to ECE.
“We’re lagging behind again. We need the government to put a stake in the ground now and implement a coherent workforce policy, ensure top quality teacher education programmes are available, and ensure ECE services have the resources and support they need to attract and retain qualified teachers.”
Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand chief executive, Kathy Wolfe agrees, saying the early childhood situation is just as bad as the primary and secondary school one.
“It astounds us that the government has not included early childhood teachers in its recruitment drive for primary and secondary school teachers,” says Wolfe.
“Early childhood must not remain the poor cousin. Research shows time and time again that the early years are crucial to a person’s educational and social development. We are amazed that the government is not paying much attention to early childhood education benefits.”
Wolfe says that Te Rito Maioha supports the proposal to put early childhood teachers on the skills shortage list, describing it as a “pragmatic short-term solution”. However she says the government must address the issues that are causing the shortage: a lack of parity between early childhood teachers and their primary and secondary counterparts; government funding that does not support there being 80-100% of qualified early childhood teachers in centres; and less than satisfactory working conditions for many teachers due to inadequate funding of the early childhood sector for the past 10 years.
NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart says the causes of the early childhood teacher shortage were similar to those in primary, but in ECE the issues are significantly worse.
“Early childhood cannot continue to be the poor cousin, and young children deserve better,” says Stuart.