By: Simon Collins
Almost one in every six Auckland schools is starting the new school year this week with teaching vacancies.
The Education Gazette lists 134 vacancies spread across 87 Auckland schools, 15 per cent of the region’s 565 schools.
However the teacher shortage appears to have eased since this time last year, when 108 Auckland schools, or one in five schools, were still advertising for teachers.
The Ministry of Education says an unprecedented overseas recruitment campaign has placed 225 overseas teachers into New Zealand schools this year, including 151 in Auckland.
School principals say they have also covered gaps by asking teachers to delay their retirement, shuffling teachers into subjects that they don’t normally teach, and even hiring untrained teachers.
Ōtāhuhu College principal Neil Watson said he had hired an accounting teacher who had no previous school teaching experience but was training by correspondence through Massey University.
“We couldn’t find a suitably qualified teacher in the subject area of accounting, though we did find a very good young man who has got a degree and enthusiasm for teaching,” he said.
“I have employed him and we’ll be supporting him through his teacher training. He has done tutoring at university.”
Balmoral School principal Malcolm Milner said he had asked a teacher to delay her retirement.
“We gave her a retirement party in the last week of last term, and four days later I was asking her to come back and take a class,” he said. “She has reluctantly agreed to do that for a term.”
Glendowie College principal Richard Dykes, who chairs the Auckland Secondary Schools Principals Association, said he knew of one school that would have to ask students to change their subject choice after an engineering teacher resigned suddenly.
“One colleague knows of at least three schools where people are cobbling together courses and have had to cut back courses,” he said.
He said the shortage meant many teachers were able to pick up jobs closer to home to reduce commuting time, leaving gaps in lower-decile areas where few teachers live.
Māngere’s Southern Cross Campus principal Robin Staples said he was still interviewing this week to fill two gaps left by primary teachers who had taken jobs closer to home.
“It’s been quite a difficult year in that many teachers have moved closer to home and we’ve had quite a bit of movement,” he said.
“We are currently fully staffed in secondary but still interviewing for the primary school and hopeful that a recruitment agency will come through with something.”
Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillaut said he was still looking for teachers in maths, music and physical education.
“The maths one we have covered with a business studies teacher,” he said. “I have ended up going with a new graduate [for business studies] and moving a more experienced person into maths.”
Education Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the ministry’s recruiters were still working to fill 250 vacancies nationally, including 149 in Auckland.
“The overseas recruitment campaign has resulted in over 1000 qualified overseas teachers being screened and made available to schools for interviews,” she said.
“Of these, 225 have so far accepted roles across New Zealand, which means we have sufficient candidates to be considered for the remaining lodged roles with our recruiters.”
Teaching Council data shows that 858 overseas-trained teachers were registered in New Zealand for the first time last year, a record in the period since 2011 for which the data were available.
In contrast, the number of NZ-trained teachers registered for the first time dropped to 3166 last year, the lowest in the period.
NZ Principals’ Federation president Whetu Cormick said the overseas recruitment campaign was definitely helping.
“The numbers suggest that things have stabilised,” he said.
But Auckland Primary Principals’ Association president Helen Varney said the shortage in Auckland was worse than this time last year.
“I have spoken to two principals who have been absolutely beside themselves during the holidays but have been able to cover the staff members for the term,” she said.
“It’s about meeting the needs with what they have got, and they are going out there again and trying to find more people.”
Most schools start for the year this week. The Ministry of Education allows them to open any time between January 28 and February 7.
Source: NZ Herald