By: Simon Collins

More New Zealanders are finally going into teaching again, apparently because the teacher shortage is making them confident of getting a job.

Universities report a surprising increase in new teacher trainees, although the picture is patchy with jumps of 10 per cent at Otago and 15 per cent at Massey but broadly stable numbers at the other five teacher-training universities.

Numbers are also up at Christian colleges Laidlaw in Auckland and Bethlehem in Tauranga, and in the Teach First on-the-job training scheme.

The turnaround builds on similar slight increases in domestic students entering teacher training in 2017 and last year, after a disastrous 43 per cent slump in the six years to 2016.

That six-year slump has led to a record teacher shortage which the Government has filled by bringing in 225 foreign teachers.

According to Careers NZ, primary and secondary school teachers usually earn around $48,000 in their first year, and this eventually rises to between $78,000-$80,000.

Canterbury University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Letitia Fickel, who chairs the NZ Council of Deans of Education, said Kiwi students were clearly responding to reports about the shortage, especially by enrolling in graduate teaching diplomas after completing a degree.

“That is one of the areas most sensitive to the teacher shortage because people are saying, ‘I know I’m likely to get a job at the end of it,'” she said.

“I do think that the conversation that is happening about the need for high-quality locally-trained teachers is something that young people are looking to.

“This new generation does want to make a difference and they do see teaching as potentially a way to make a difference.”

Canterbury’s teacher trainees are up only 1 per cent this year, but that came after jumps of 6 per cent in 2017 and 10 per cent last year as the university returned to normal after the 2011 earthquake.

Massey University Institute of Education head John O’Neill said Massey’s numbers were up 15 per cent this year and were now 26 per cent higher than in 2017.

“We do ask why teaching and why now? My colleagues tell me that one typical response is that because of the shortages it is a good time to go teaching,” he said.

Otago University associate dean of education Alex Gunn said Otago teacher trainees increased by 3 per cent last year and 10 per cent this year.

Auckland University acting head of teacher education Ngaire Hoben said enrolments were up for early childhood and primary teaching but down for secondary teaching.

Bethlehem Tertiary Institute chief executive Andrew Butcher reported increases for early childhood and secondary, but no change in primary teaching.

“The numbers for early childhood are up on last year and higher than we projected,” he said. “We are putting it down to the policy changes for early childhood teachers needing qualifications.”

Laidlaw College head of education Yael Klangwisan said her trainees have jumped 40 per cent this year.

Teach First chief executive Jay Allnutt said his trainees were up from 43 last year to 76 because of a Government funding decision, and applications almost doubled from 460 to 840.

“I think that more broadly talk of inequality and social justice and people looking for a career with meaning and a way to affect this has also had a big impact on ‘for purpose’ programmes like ours,” he said.

However, Waikato and Victoria Universities reported stable numbers.

AUT University acting head of education Ross Bernay said his teacher trainees jumped by 15 per cent last year when AUT opened a teacher training school in Manukau, but have levelled off this year.

“We have fewer applications than in the past in early childhood and primary,” he said.

But he is projecting a 39 per cent jump in secondary trainees, up from 61 who started at this time last year to 85.

Waikato University associate education dean Bev Cooper, who chairs the national Teacher Education Forum, said secondary trainees nationally included more applicants with science, technology, engineering and maths degrees because of more scholarships.

The National Government created 100 scholarships a year for trainee teachers in science, technology and maths in 2016. There has been no increase since then.

There are also longstanding scholarships for about 150 teacher trainees a year in te reo Māori and 30 for Māori and Pacific high achievers.

However scholarships for Māori and Pacific early childhood trainees have dwindled from 365 in 2012 to 59 last year.

Trainee teacher ‘wants to give back’

Young West Aucklander Kieran Horler wants to become a teacher so that he can “give back to the community”.

Horler, 21, finished a business degree last year and started a graduate diploma of primary teaching at Massey University’s Albany campus on January 21.

He majored in economics and management in his first degree with an eye on picking up management skills for “the end goal” of one day becoming a school principal.

“I want to give back to the community,” he said.

“I have always wanted to be a teacher, based on the teachers I’ve had. They have just always had a great influence on me, they have always been able to relate to me, and it’s something I feel I can bring into a classroom, it’s the openness and communication with children.

“It’s just kind of always stuck with me. I want to be in a class where I can have that kind of influence on the new generation.”

Horler went to St Paul’s Primary School in Massey and then to Liston College in Henderson.

He loves the diversity of West Auckland schools and feels it’s important to have diverse teachers too, including men. He is one of fewer than 10 men in his class of about 70 at Albany.

He loves hunting and fishing, working out at the gym, and researching current events.

He refuses to be put off teaching by union claims that low pay has driven the current teacher shortage.

“It’s something I don’t want to talk about, just because of all the political heat at the moment,” he said.

“For me it’s just like in any job you go into you will always want more money, but it’s kind of that line about what is achievable and what realistically you can’t get but would love to have,” he said.

“I totally agree that teachers should be paid more, but it’s also just that balance of what do teachers get represented as.

“People still see teaching as, ‘Oh, that’s an easy job.’ But all the class planning behind it is all stuff that people don’t see.”

Source: NZ Herald

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