By: Simon Collins

The result is an apparent improvement from the union’s last survey last September, which found that 52 per cent of principals said they did not have all the teachers they needed.

But NZ Principals’ Federation president Whetu Cormick said the survey still meant that between 1250 and 2500 of the country’s 520,000 primary and intermediate school students did not have their own teachers.

“Whilst it is an improvement on the September figures, 10 per cent of schools still looking for one or two teachers is concerning. That equates to 1250-2500 young people that will be without fulltime teachers,” he said.

“I’m confident, however, that my colleagues will be managing this by putting senior staff into classrooms, specialist programmes will be put on hold and in some cases principals will be forced into abandoning their leadership work to cover classes.

“These sorts of arrangements are not ideal and will just mask the teacher supply issues many schools are facing.”

The latest figure was buried at the bottom of a press release by the primary teachers’ union, the NZ Educational Institute, about a 2018 survey of principals’ long working hours and stress.

“An NZEI phone survey of 500 principals in the first two weeks of term [this year] found that 10 per cent of schools were short one or two teachers,” it said.

“[Also] 69.3 per cent of principals considered that it would be difficult or very difficult to find suitable relieving staff this year.”

In the September survey of 707 principals, 52 per cent said they did not have all the teaching staff they needed, and 90 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that it was “easy to find suitable relieving staff this term”.

The apparent improvement this year may be largely due to the different survey methods. The September survey was an email sent to all 2000-odd primary and intermediate principals, so the 707 who returned the email might have been mainly those with the worst problems.

The latest survey was a phone survey of a random sample of schools, so it may be a better measure of the true situation.

However it is also possible that the true situation has improved slightly because of an overseas recruitment campaign which has placed 239 teachers into schools this year, a fee waiver on refresher courses for trained teachers who have not yet registered, $10,000 grants for schools to employ beginner teachers, and a slight recovery in teacher trainees.

Herald analysis of vacancies in the Education Gazette found that 15 per cent of Auckland schools listed vacancies at the start of this year, down slightly from 19 per cent at the same time last year.

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