No one seriously doubts that we are in the midst of a teacher shortage crisis. With students returning to school this week, the unfortunate reality is that hundreds of schools are yet to fill vacancies.

The consequences for Kiwi kids are larger classes, subject options cancelled and a succession of relief teachers. Retired teachers, some in their 70s, have been enticed or arm-twisted back into service.

The Ministry of Education has been scrambling to find solutions to a problem they have known about for more than a decade. To be fair, the recruitment drive for overseas teachers has enjoyed some degree of success with more than 200 available for appointments to schools. By all accounts, those already employed are making a valuable contribution.

It comes however, at a cost of $10,000 per teacher and is not a silver bullet to this crisis.

A part answer could, in fact, be lying within the Ministry of Education’s own Human Resource Department.

Under the ‘Tomorrow’s School’ regime, which is not yet quite extinct, schools work in a self-managing environment.

The majority of schools do an exceptional job managing their own property, finance, curriculum delivery and H R. All done with little assistance from the Ministry.

Despite this context, there are more than 3000 Ministry staff who oversee 2500 self-managing schools.

Many of these Ministry employees were ex teachers and principals with excellent track records of success in the classroom. I know many of them personally and would be happy to employ them in my school. They are amazing educators, full of passion, knowledge and expertise. With little or no-training they could slot into classrooms throughout the country.

The Ministry has a well-established practice of seconding teachers and principals to work in their offices on specific projects. This proposal is simply providing schools with the same opportunity in reverse.

It would in my view, be an outstanding gesture of goodwill if the Ministry of Education could release even a few hundred of them to return to the classroom. It would be a win/win situation.

Schools would gain highly qualified NZ-trained and experienced teachers at no expense to the taxpayer.

Ministry staff would renew their acquaintance with the realities of the classroom.

They would also increase their mana and credibility with the teaching profession.

Lastly and importantly, it may also demonstrate that perhaps the Ministry of Education does not need 3000 staff to oversee a self-managing network of schools.

Patrick Walsh is the principal of John Paul College and the former president of SPAN.

Source: Bay of Plenty Times

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