By: Stephanie Arthur-Worsop

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh is concerned about the teaching shortage in Rotorua. Photo / file

A Rotorua high school has been forced to pull two people out of retirement to fill a maths and a science position, as the city’s teaching shortage reaches “crisis point”.

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said the two teaching positions had been open for months, but the school had not received any suitable applications.

He said the situation reached “crisis point” where the school risked starting the new year without a maths or science teacher.

“There is a teacher shortage across the board, but it is a chronic problem trying to fill maths and science positions.

“In the end we approached two teachers who had retired two years ago, and had the discussion with them about coming back.

“They’re both excellent teachers so we are delighted to have them back in front of a class, but principals should not have to do this.

“The Government has to address the shortage and increase the pay scale. Wage salary increases have been minimal in the last nine years so the profession is not attracting as many young graduates.”

The Government last month announced a $9.5 million boost to address immediate teacher supply pressures with further initiatives being considered for Budget 2018.

Ministry of Education early learning and student achievement acting deputy secretary Pauline Cleaver said the package would “support more graduates into permanent teaching positions, support experienced teachers back into the profession and recruit new graduates into teaching”.

Rotorua’s John Paul College. Photo/File

Walsh said of the 180 Year 13 John Paul College graduates last year, “only one or two were considering going into teaching”.

“When asked why, the main comments were around the poor pay.”

He said the lack of investment in the profession was “compromising the prosperity of the future generations”.

Rotorua Principals’ Association president and Rotokawa School principal Briar Stewart echoed Walsh’s comments, saying there had been a significant drop in the number of applicants for jobs.

“What would normally be a good amount of applications for a job is now down to single figures. That is for both teaching and leadership positions.

“There is a real wariness of people going into leadership roles, seeing the pressure, hours and remuneration.”

Stewart said Rotorua’s housing crisis was also impacting applications.

“I know of teachers who want to work in Rotorua but are having to move out of town to find a rental property.

“We are all looking for good quality teachers, it has been a challenge to schools getting the right staff.”

Rotokawa School principal and Rotorua Principals’ Association president Briar Stewart. Photo/File

Post Primary Teachers’ Association Bay of Plenty regional chairwoman Alex Le Long said the teacher shortage was a definite issue in all regions, including Rotorua.

“Maths and science positions are hard to staff because they are very specialised subjects.

“There is a small number of teachers in those subjects as is, and with a lot going to the bigger regions, smaller regions like Rotorua are missing out.”

Le Long said difficult workloads and poor pay meant “many young graduates are leaving the profession after five years”.

“This is a huge issue and will be one of our main focuses this year.”

Cleaver said: “Having the right number of teachers with the right subject expertise, in the right place, and at the right time is an ongoing issue as supply fluctuates over time.

“We subsidise two specialist recruitment agencies to help schools that are having difficulty finding teachers for classrooms.”

She said it was also worth noting the state and state integrated schools employment agreements provided removal expenses for eligible teachers and principals.

Source: NZ Herald


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