The Early Childhood, Primary School and Secondary School Teacher occupations have been added to the RSSL, the Ministry of Immigration announced yesterday.

This means that employers no longer have to prove there is not a New Zealander who can fill the role – they can employ an overseas trained teacher for two years and then that teacher is eligible to apply for permanent residency.

More teachers are desperately needed says outgoing principal of Willow Park and Auckland Primary Principals’ Association (APPA) President Craig Holt.

“I’m speaking to principals who have advertised positions and they have received one or two applications if they are lucky. We are in for a rough couple of years. You can announce whatever plans you want but we need more teachers in classrooms now.”

Holt welcomes overseas trained teachers into classrooms but says they come with added needs.

“Those teachers still need support around the New Zealand curriculum and the way we teach. That support has to come from somewhere and that further impacts our existing staff.

“We told National five or six years ago that a teacher shortage was looming and it would reach crisis point and now we’re here.”

Echoing that sentiment is NZEI Te Riu Roa Union president Lynda Stuart, who says the addition of teachers across all levels to the skills shortage list is not surprising.

“We have been saying we have a crisis for years. It’s too little too late teachers are under such stress, are not paid enough and lack support – teaching is not the valued profession it once was, and only the government can turn around and make it an attractive profession again. We welcome our overseas teachers but it is only a short term measure. We need to build up our homegrown teachers in this country.”

She points to the government’s failure to include funding for ECE training in a recently announced $95 million training incentives.

“If we don’t look after the people we have then the new teachers will suffer from the same conditions and lack of resources and then that becomes a problem. Our just released survey of 700 principals showed that 90 per cent are struggling to find relievers. This means teachers can’t do professional development and it means as we come into winter and teachers get sick, that classes have to be combined for example – and that adds to the stress teachers already carry as well as being stressful for children.”

Stuart exhales dispiritedly when thinking about the teacher shortage.

“We have to do something really significant to retain the teachers we’ve got.”

Holt is leaving his school and moving into a career outside of education at the end of this term.

“I’ve had enough – I know two other relatively young principals who are leaving as well, because of the shortages. I’m at the point where I can’t look teachers in the eye when they come in to ask for any support around behavioural issues and with special needs – and it’s really difficult to look them in the eye and say “do your best”.”

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