Education Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday announced a new plan to address the teacher shortage. The plan includes hiring more than 850 additional teachers, with an emphasis on recruiting overseas teachers and new graduate teachers.

New analysis by the Ministry of Education shows that 650 extra primary teachers and 200 extra secondary teachers will be needed in 2019 to meet a rising level of demand, driven mainly by a forecast growth in the number of students in schools.

“We know that some schools and parents, particularly in the Auckland area but also in pockets around the country, are concerned that not enough teachers are coming into the system, and we are determined to pull out all the stops to meet next year’s projected shortfall,” says Hipkins.

What’s in the new plan?

The plan includes up to 230 grants of $10,000 for schools to get more graduate teachers into classrooms.

“Increasing the employment of newly graduated teachers is important and the grant will support schools to mentor beginning teachers, before they take on their own classes. The grant means the Ministry can be more hands on to address location and subject shortage areas,” says Hipkins.

The plan also targets overseas-based teachers through a new recruitment campaign. It includes $5 million more available for overseas relocation grants and finders’ fees.

“We’ve also increased our overseas recruitment target for 2019 from 400 up to 900 and enlisted further recruitment agency support for schools. We’re continuing to focus on bringing New Zealand-trained teachers home, while also looking for other teachers from countries with qualifications similar to ours.

“Last week Immigration NZ, working with the Education Ministry, directly emailed 6000 overseas teachers who’ve registered an interest in working here – to encourage them to take the next step. A social media campaign targeting this group is also underway and a campaign targeting New Zealand-trained teachers working overseas will follow soon.

“The Education Ministry is working with the Teaching Council to improve the support available to overseas-trained teachers, including a focus on induction that builds the culturally responsive practices needed to work in New Zealand,” says Hipkins.

The Teacher Education Refresh (TER) subsidy will be expanded so it can be accessed by overseas teachers to meet certification requirements with the Teaching Council. Further support will also be provided to teachers required to repeat or re-sit aspects of the TER programme, at no further cost.

 Focus needs to be on addressing pay and conditions

The sector has welcomed the new initiatives but the unions say teachers’ pay and conditions need to be addressed first and foremost.

NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart describes the overseas recruitment plans as “a band-aid solution”.

“The Government’s new initiatives are a necessary short-term fix in the midst of this crisis, but we really need more sustainable changes for the long term to encourage New Zealanders to enter the teaching profession and stay in it,” she says.

“If we don’t do something about the workload and remuneration of teachers, overseas teachers won’t last in the system any longer than our homegrown teachers.”

PPTA president Jack Boyle points out that the Ministry had only approved 190 overseas relocation grants since they became available last December.

“They are not streaming in from all over,” he told the Herald. “Why? Because the pay and conditions of work are not sufficient for people to consider it as a career option.”

National’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye agrees.

“Importantly, teachers are waiting for the Government to reduce workloads and increase pay. Primary teachers overwhelmingly rejected their second pay offer last week and are now pursuing strike action while secondary teachers have also rejected the Government’s first offer.”

Longer term strategy needed

Nikki Kaye says importantly a long term workforce development strategy needs to be delivered by the Government to prevent future shortages.

“This strategy must get to the core of the issue around how we can better attract people into teaching and retain our best teachers. Ideally it will bring back experienced teachers who left over workload and pay issues and won’t leave schools reliant on offering incentives to attract new graduates and people from overseas.”

However, Chris Hipkins says longer term planning is underway.

“Our immediate focus is to get sufficient quality teachers in place for the next school year. But longer-term workforce planning is already underway, and the analysis being refined will support this work to address what is expected to be a need for even more teachers in a few years’ time.”

The Ministry acknowledges that the teacher education, recruitment and appointment systems are not integrated and do not provide good central information yet but they are working to improve the demand and supply planning system.

Will the Ministry of Education's new plan to get more overseas teachers in Kiwi schools address the teacher shortage?
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