By: Simon Collins

One in every five schools in Auckland will open for the year next week without a full teaching staff.

The region faces a desperate teacher shortage driven by rapid population growth, declining numbers of teacher trainees and sky-high house prices that have forced many teachers to move out to smaller towns where they can afford to buy.

Schools have responded with an overseas recruitment drive, with 350 teachers applying to have their overseas qualifications recognised by the NZ Qualifications Authority in the last six months – up from 256 in the same period the previous year.

But 108 of Auckland’s 551 schools, and 188 of the 1980 schools around the rest of the country, were still advertising for teachers in the Education Gazette this week.

The vacancies include a few for principals and other staff who will leave later this year, but most of the schools need teachers immediately and will need temporary measures to fill the gaps when they open for the year between Monday and Wednesday.

“Principals will make sure there is someone in front of the class,” said Secondary Principals Association president Mike Williams.

“To a large extent the worst of the impacts have been smothered, avoided, work-arounds have been found, compromises made.

“Those work-arounds include moving teachers out of their subject areas into high-demand areas, pulling retirees back in, and bringing in relievers.”

Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the ministry was ringing all Auckland schools to gauge the extent of the crisis.

“We are asking questions about their staffing for term one, how they intend to manage any vacancies, and we are providing information about recruitment support and the teacher supply package,” she said.

She said almost 400 former or provisionally registered teachers have expressed interest in taking up one part of the pre-Christmas package – free places in retraining courses where the Government has waived the normal fees of $1690 or $2940 for the first half of this year.

But another element in the package, a $24,000 subsidy for Auckland primary schools to employ 60 beginning teachers before new entrants justify the extra positions, has only drawn 18 applications so far.

Ministry data shows that job advertisements in the Gazette declined from 8572 in 2009 to a low point of 7152 in 2011 when the global financial crisis appeared to scare many teachers into staying where they were.

Stuart Birch of recruitment agency Education Personnel said the resulting lack of jobs for new teachers drove down the numbers starting teacher training from 6625 in 2009 to 4430 in 2015.

“We are still suffering from the after-effects of that,” he said.

But job advertisements in the Gazette have climbed again to 10,818 in 2016 and 11,876 last year, and have almost doubled in Auckland from 2237 in 2011 to 4023.

“Now the word is out again that there are jobs available for NZ beginning teachers, I expect that numbers training to be teachers will go up again,” Birch said.

Council of Deans of Education head Professor John O’Neill said initial signs were that numbers would be up “modestly” in all universities this year, and “way up” for primary teaching at Canterbury University.

Job advertisements in Education Gazette

2009: 8572

2010: 7384

2011: 7152

2012: 7558

2013: 8016

2014: 9050

2015: 9945

2016: 10,818

2017: 11,876

Source: Ministry of Education

Source: NZ Herald


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