The teacher shortage has eased slightly in Auckland, but is still critical in some provincial areas such as Northland, Waikato and Hawke’s Bay.

One in seven Auckland schools – 82 out of 553 – were still listing vacancies in the Education Gazette at 5pm last night, down slightly from 87 schools at this time last year and well down from 108 at the same time two years ago.

Cindy Chiang, left, and Ariana Little are two of four first-year teachers starting work at Te Papapa School in Onehunga next week. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

Nationally there are 370 vacancies, a vacancy rate of 0.5 per cent with the new school year due to start next week.

In popular regions such as the Bay of Plenty and Nelson/Tasman the vacancy rate is now just 0.2 per cent and the teacher shortage appears to have turned into a glut, with some teachers reporting up to 80 applicants for every position.

Principals’ Federation president Perry Rush, who has been meeting with his executive in Hawke’s Bay this week, said the situation was “variable”.

“Wellington appears to be okay. A number of principals there said there was reasonable supply there,” he said.

“Christchurch seems to be travelling okay. In other South Island areas there are no significant issues.

“But here in Hawke’s Bay it’s tight. Northland is tight.”

He said a Ministry of Education drive to recruit overseas teachers “has had an impact”. Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the ministry had approved 868 grants for foreign teachers and returning New Zealanders since December 2017 – up 116 from the last update on September 30.

Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary Early Learning and Student Achievement, says 868 overseas relocation grants have been approved. Photo / File

About 200 of those were for returning New Zealanders.

“The ministry’s recruiters are currently working on 166 roles lodged by schools, of which 114 are for primary and 52 are for secondary. Comparatively the 166 roles currently lodged are around 100 fewer than this time last year,” she said.

Although official data is not yet available, schools appear to have successfully appointed almost all of the 623 new “learning support co-ordinators” (LSCs) due to start this term, with only 28 still being advertised in the Gazette.

However Rush said most had been drawn from other teaching jobs and resource teachers of learning and behaviour (RTLBs), creating RTLB shortages in some areas.

In Auckland, Te Papapa School principal Robyn Curry, who leads a community of schools in Onehunga and Māngere Bridge, said she was still looking for three out of four LSCs allocated to work across six schools in the group.

“This is the second time we have advertised. We didn’t get sufficient responses the first time,” she said.

She has appointed four first-year teachers straight out of teachers’ college to fill four of her 12 classroom teacher roles – a “disproportionate” reliance on new teachers that she has been forced into because many experienced teachers prefer richer schools than Te Papapa, which is rated decile 2.

“We are a low-decile school so we end up with a lot of beginning teachers,” Curry said.

“We have some lovely first-year teachers, but it does require our experienced teachers to have an additional workload to support them. It’s extra stress on the school.”

Māngere’s Southern Cross Campus, a decile 1 school spanning Years 1 to 13, is still trying to fill four teaching vacancies even after hiring three overseas teachers – two Britons and a South African.

“I think it’s as short as it has been [in previous years],” said principal Robin Staples, who will retire at the end of this term after 13 years.

“We are going to be in this for a couple of years until we build our own capacity to put more teachers in. The salary changes will help but we have to be competitive on the world market, and currently our teachers are well sought-after in Australia.”

Auckland Primary Principals’ Association president Heath McNeil said his decile-7 Ormiston School was fully staffed, with two returning New Zealanders and four or five others from overseas.

“The recruitment agencies have made the process a lot easier,” he said. “They support all the paperwork if there is immigration stuff, do all the referee checks and that sort of thing, and they don’t just drop them off and never talk to them – they support them, making sure they have somewhere to live and connect them with each other.”

NZ Herald

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