New Zealand Secondary Principals’ Council chair James Morris discusses the elephant in the room: how pay is affecting New Zealand’s secondary teacher shortage.

NZSPC chair James Morris

Principals surveyed on teacher supply

Earlier this term the New Zealand Secondary Principals’ Council (NZSPC), in collaboration with the Secondary Principals’ Association (SPANZ), surveyed school principals about secondary teacher supply. We were asked to rank the actions government should take to address our secondary teacher supply crisis. Our top two needs were to increase base-scale rates and to increase middle leadership payments.

Principals believe staff are significantly underpaid

When asked what we thought base scale rates should be our median responses from secondary principals were a starting salary of $55,000 and an $88,000 top of scale. The average rates we suggested were even higher.

My colleagues are indicating that we need to be offering at least $10,000 more at the top of the scale to be able to recruit and retain qualified staff.

“It is clear to me that staff are significantly underpaid to the tune of 20 percent less than what they ought to be. We need to recruit young educators. An 18-year-old police cadet begins on a rate comparable to a degree and diploma qualified teacher. Something is very wrong here. We are under-promoting our profession.”

Increase needed for middle leaders

We also feel middle leadership is underpaid and most suggest at least $5000 per unit and $2000 per management allowance. That would mean that a middle leadership position with two units and a middle management allowance should be paid at least $13,000 more than it currently is – comparable to an Across Community Teacher in a Community of Learning.

“Increasing teacher salaries makes the job more attractive to appoint and retain teachers. Increasing management units/allowances is critical. The current value provides little or no incentive for the additional responsibilities and workloads.”

We also want the hard-to-staff incentive payment at least doubled to $5000.

Low pay rate and high workload leading to shortage

These numbers should not be dismissed by the government or the ministry as self-interest. Principals were not proposing more pay for ourselves, but in our role as the day-to-day employers of other teachers we are saying that these rates are what we need be paying to actually be able to recruit and retain good teachers.

“We will struggle to get quality teachers if the pay rates are so low and the workload so high.”

Cartoon by Jack Boyle

Principals agree pay is the most urgent issue to address

The lack of financial attractions to teaching, the very high demands of the job, the growing availability of jobs outside teaching, an aging teaching workforce with booming retirements, housing affordability issues and a decade of roll growth ahead form a perfect storm that will ultimately undermine quality education delivery to students. Principals broadly agree that pay is the most urgent issue to address.


PPTA president Jack Boyle said that the amounts principals were proposing aligned with other measures of what teacher salaries should be to be competitive.

Source: PPTA News the Magazine (sept/oct V38.No6)


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