A new, in-school-based model of educating secondary school teachers has been warmly embraced by the first inductees, with some even describing the initiative as pivotal to their decision to pursue further qualifications and thereby help alleviate the country’s severe teacher shortage.
Developed through the close collaboration of the University of Waikato and both independent and state schools, the innovative model commenced at the start of 2021. It entails student teachers being fully-immersed within schools throughout the year, during which the schools pay their fees, provide mentoring and endeavour to offer post-qualification employment.
Engaged in the programme by Diocesan School for Girls, Lachlan Craig describes the initiative as a “deal breaker” to progressing further in the profession.
“I had previously avoided teacher training because of the difficulty of meeting expectations of a Graduate Diploma in Teaching while being employed full time at a school, and the uncertainty of full teacher registration via itinerant teaching and co-curricular activities,” he says.
“The flexibility from both the programme structure and Dio have made completing readings and assignments far more achievable than an onsite model. It has been nice having contact with the other [student teachers] regularly too – online learning is lonely and the sense of community helps.
“A practicum wouldn’t prepare a beginning teacher for the administrative information about how a school is managed. Being immersed in a school fulltime is a huge head start.”
Undertaking her training at St Cuthbert’s College, Briar Lawry says the programme “definitely” accelerated her journey into the academic teaching world.
“It was something I was planning on tackling in the next few years, but when the opportunity presented itself to undertake ITE [initial teacher education] in a more hands-on fashion, I felt like I had to take the plunge,” says Ms Lawry.
“I’ve been made to feel very welcome both by my faculty at school but also with everyone I’ve interacted with on staff.
“I think we’ll have a much greater understanding and appreciation for everything else going on behind the scenes in schools – as well as the different highs and lows of the school year.”
Also “delighted” to be embedded in the programme with St Cuthbert’s College, Tom Rutledge says without the initiative he would have needed to pursue a “more traditional” qualifications pathway.
“Having the chance to work alongside experienced colleagues gives so many opportunities to observe the little details of teaching (as well as the bigger things) in terms of preparation, the handling of questions or moments within a class,” he says.
“It’s also great to have the opportunity to work with classes over the course of the whole year and so to get a real appreciation of the rhythms.
“It has been a challenge to juggle the university programme along with all of my other commitments, but it is giving me a sense of the history and important and distinctive emphases of the profession within New Zealand.
“I’m looking forward to the workshops at the other partnership schools and to the opportunities that will give to hear a range of different, experienced voices and to get a taste of the variety of approaches and cultures within each school.”
Alex Woodall confirms the programme, for which he is embedded within Diocesan School for Girls, enticed him away from an existing fulltime tutorial role.
“So far, the in-school side of the programme has been great – especially once we started interacting with the students,” he says.
“Seeing the prior planning was also interesting as naturally it is something that I never saw when I was a student. Getting to observe more classes will be great and then not leaving the school afterwards will be excellent to continue learning how the school works.
“Seeing how the school works through a whole year, rather than just popping in for different segments, will help me to prepare for being a fulltime teacher. I will also be able to build a rapport with the students that I will then teach later this year.
“I think this will make this aspect of the training easier and is more representative of teaching in a school the entire year.”
Diocesan School for Girls Principal Heather McRae says her school is “delighted” with the programme.
“It provides applicants with an alternative pathway into teaching that gives them the full cultural experience of school life rather than a short-term drop in,” says Ms McRae.
“One of the most important aspects of establishing quality teaching practice is about developing relationships with students, understanding their thinking, their culture and tapping into their conceptual views and voice. It is a far more complex journey than simply delivering content.
“A year-long school experience provides for new teacher educators to establish these important longer-term relationships with students and colleagues and to experience the annual life of a school in vitro.”
St Cuthbert’s College Principal Justine Mahon considers the initiative a “valuable addition” to her school.
“We are thrilled to have four very talented trainees at the college who all bring with them their enthusiasm, commitment and strengths,” says Ms Mahon.
“It has been great to see the programme attract high-quality individuals into teaching and to see how quickly the trainees are learning, as they work alongside our staff and students.
“Our teacher trainees’ professional backgrounds and previous life experience provide an invaluable foundation for them as teachers and in turn for us as a school. Their prior experiences add another perspective to their teaching, provide another dimension to our classrooms and further enrich the lives of our students.
“The programme also provides our teachers with professional development opportunities, as mentors for our trainees. Our teachers are finding sharing their skills and expertise extremely rewarding.”
Ms Mahon strongly encourages other independent schools to consider involvement in the programme.
“Exceptional teachers are the heart of a school, and together, by supporting this programme, we are attracting highly-skilled individuals into the teaching profession and retaining them in our New Zealand schools. This is a great way to give back and support the education of our next generation.”
The Auckland schools involved in the initiative entail:
· Auckland Grammar School
· Baradene College of the Sacred Heart
· Diocesan School for Girls
· Macleans College
· Mount Albert Grammar School
· Rangitoto College
· Sacred Heart College
· St Cuthbert’s College
· St Peter’s College
· Westlake Boys High School
· Westlake Girls High School