By: Scott Yeoman

Video: Acting chair of the Western Bay of Plenty Principals’ Association, Matt Simeon, says the Western Bay is heading in the same direction as Auckland when it comes to teacher shortages.

The Western Bay is heading in the same direction as Auckland when it comes to teacher shortages, principals in the district say.

The issue was raised at a Western Bay of Plenty Principals’ Association meeting last week and the school leaders decided to speak out before this month’s general election.

Acting chairman of the association Matt Simeon said the teaching profession had to be made a desirable career choice to avoid shortages and right now that involved lifting pay and addressing local education issues.

“Currently our teachers are faced with housing shortages in Tauranga and with Tauranga being the ninth most expensive city in the world to live,” he said.

“We may not be at crisis point like in Auckland but we are on the way.”

He said there was “a perfect storm” creating pressure in the profession in the Western Bay and that included the cost of housing in the district and the cost of living here.

“Housing is an issue for the cost to buy and rentals are at a premium. We are also seeing people leaving the profession because of the continued pressures and social issues that are coming into schools.”

Mr Simeon, also the principal of Pillans Point Primary School in Otumoetai, said he had personally seen a huge reduction in the number of applications for jobs at the school compared to previous years.

“We usually have between 100 to 120 applicants and this year we have only 40 to 45.”

He said that observation was met with common nods from other principals during the meeting last week in regards to their own appointments.

Acting chairman of the Western Bay of Plenty Principals’ Association Matt Simeon said the teaching profession had to be made a desirable career choice to avoid shortages. Photo/John Borren

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said the number of job applicants at his school was coming down “right across the board”.

But some subjects were getting particularly hard to staff, he said.

“If I applied for a teacher of Maori, I doubt I’d get an applicant. If I applied for a teacher of technology, I probably wouldn’t get any applicants either.”

He said interest in teaching was dropping and it was not just the pay, but also workload and the amount of pressure being put on those in the classroom.

“I’m very fortunate I’m still getting good quality applicants, but I’m also getting people who only want to do part-time or only want short term. They don’t want a full-time teaching load. They just say they don’t need that pressure to cope with.”

Mr Randell said his prime concern and reason for being a teacher was to help young learners.

“But as a principal, my strongest resource is my teaching staff and I’m feeling disempowered at times to support them with the pressure and the stress that they’re under,” he said.

“It’s a vicious circle, they’re stressed, the young people probably don’t get what they could get, and it’s going around and around in circles.

“We’re losing good people out there that we would love to have come to the profession.”

Education Minister Nikki Kaye said there were enough teachers in the education system overall in New Zealand.

“But I acknowledge some areas are experiencing high population growth, such as Tauranga, which can, over time, put pressure on teacher supply and in particular specialised subjects, such as STM subjects (science, technology, maths) and Te Reo Maori.”

She said she had listened to what principals said and had asked the Ministry of Education to work with a range of people across education to develop a longer-term Workforce Strategy.

“This will be based on more real-time information and allow us to be more responsive.”

Ms Kaye said the ministry was carrying out this work as well as closely monitoring vacancy levels across the country, including a focus on population growth areas like Bay of Plenty.

“The Government has committed around $20 million since August last year on a range of initiatives to address teacher supply issues across the country.”

She said she would keep listening and working in partnership with the Education Council, unions, other stakeholders and school leaders to continue to support the profession on issues of supply.

The issues raised at the Western Bay of Plenty Principals’ Association meeting last week:

  • Funding of special education needs co-ordinators in schools (SENCOs)
  • Increasing the budget for Learning Support (special needs)
  • Giving children with mental health needs access to school High Health Needs (HHN) funding
  • Providing funding for Social Workers in Schools (Swis)
  • Reducing class sizes in low decile schools by 2020
  • Reducing time spent on “over-assessing children” to meet national standards
  • Lifting teacher pay

Source: Bay of Plenty Times


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