By: Simon Collins
- Two Auckland colleges are looking at building or subsidising housing because their teachers can no longer afford Auckland housing costs.
- Auckland primary principals say children will have to be sent home this winter because there are not enough relief teachers.
- A historical inflow of teachers to jobs in Auckland’s expanding schools has turned into a net outflow of teachers to the regions.
- Schools are offering free childcare and gym facilities as extra perks to keep teachers.
Auckland’s biggest school is investigating building houses for its teachers in a desperate move to stop teachers leaving the city because of sky-high house prices.
Rangitoto College, on the city’s North Shore where the average home now costs $1.2 million, is doing a feasibility study into building housing for teachers on the school grounds.
Macleans College at Bucklands Beach has also started subsidising rents in private housing for nine teachers hired this year from outside Auckland.
Other schools plan to give teachers free childcare and gym facilities to reduce their living costs.
Their desperate measures come as the Auckland Primary Principals Association warns that some schools will have to send children home this winter because they will not have anyone to teach them.
The association surveyed the city’s 420 primary schools on Wednesday and found that 30 had to move children out of their usual classes that day because they could not get enough relief teachers.
“We are splitting classes and we are still yet to see the full impact of winter and all the winter illnesses, so my prediction is that there will be classes where parents will be contacted to say they don’t have a teacher for their class for the day and they will have to be kept at home,” said the association’s president Kevin Bush of Te Hihi School near Karaka.
“I can’t remember a time like this since the 90s. It is a dire situation that we have got, in Auckland especially.”
Auckland Secondary School Principals president James Thomas of Whangaparaoa College said he asked his members recently how many of them had lost teachers who moved out of Auckland because of housing costs.
“Every single principal raised their hand,” he said.
A secondary teaching supply working group last year found that the traditional inflow of teachers to fill new jobs in Auckland’s expanding schools has now become a net outflow to other regions – “a significant change from the historical trend”.
Rangitoto College acting principal Don Hastie said he had no applicants at all for two recent vacancies for graphics and electronics teachers, and only one NZ applicant for an English teaching job.
“In the past we would have had a field from which we could choose a really well qualified teacher,” he said.
He eventually filled the electronics job from Britain and hopes the appointee will also be able to cover graphics.
“At the end of last year we had teachers leaving Auckland because it was too expensive,” he said.
“The issue is us being in Auckland and potentially the downside of the property market and high rentals, and the amount of time that people are taking to travel across Auckland so there is more resistance to move from one side of the city to the other.”
He said building houses would be “an opportunity to allow staff to maybe save some money both in rent and in saving time and transport costs because they would potentially be living on the school site”.
“We are looking to see if it’s economically feasible to offset rent against other rentals, but there are all sorts of legislative barriers about what schools can do with land and what schools can do in terms of rewarding teachers because there is not a lot of flexibility.”
Hastie said the college was also refitting its fitness centre with “new equipment so it would be as competitive as a local commercial gym, that’s something that could be attractive for teachers”.
Western Springs College principal Ivan Davis said he planned to open a childcare centre, partly as a training facility for students studying childcare, but with five free places for staff to help them afford to stay in Auckland.
Macleans College principal Byron Bentley said he was subsidising private rents for nine teachers who were new to Auckland this year, and was likely to extend it.
“We want to spread it out to longer-serving staff as well,” he said.
“It’s not very much but it’s some contribution. It’s coming out of our international student income.
“Why are we doing it? We are doing it to get good teachers into our classrooms, and that is becoming very, very problematic. Just because we are offering subsidies doesn’t mean we are going to get anybody.”
Ministry of Education acting deputy secretary Karl Le Quesne said the ministry used to provide houses to help recruit teachers in rural areas, but with improved housing and transport “the need for such houses has decreased”.
“Schools require our approval to acquire an interest in property, which includes facilities they wish to build on their sites. Any proposal from a school to build houses on their site would be considered on its merits,” he said.
The ministry’s education infrastructure head Kim Shannon said the ministry had sold 840 of the 2400 school houses it owned nationally when its policy was reviewed in 2002-03. The ministry still owns 474 houses and another 1089 are owned or managed by school boards.
Source: NZ Herald