28 Aug 2023

More schools turning to on-the-job training to fill teacher shortage

From Checkpoint, 5:46 pm on 28 August 2023
Students at Pacific Advance Secondary School. Note only use identifying pictures for stories about PASS - only non-identifiying pictures may be reused.

People who already have degrees in other subjects can now qualify as a teacher on the job. (File photo)  Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Schools are increasingly turning to new ways of recruiting teachers in order to meet demand amid a long-running teacher shortage.  

On the job training programmes were designed to allow aspiring teachers who already have a degree to spend a year working at a school with minimal time spent on campus, sort of like an apprenticeship. 

Participants' fees are covered and they could earn a small salary, so the programme is proving popular among graduates who do not fancy another year at university.

After years studying in the humanities and obtaining a master's degree in philosophy, Keryn McAlpine taught a short course to high school students. 

It had just been a way to make ends meet, but she found she loved it. 

"I realised that actually, I think I might like to become a teacher. So teaching was not part of the original plan, but it's been a really happy result," McAlpine said.

Around the same time, she heard about the Auckland Schools' Teacher Training Programme and decided to give it a go, obtaining a placement at Westlake Boys High School.

She said the practical nature of the programme made the experience invaluable. 

Westlake Boys High School

Westlake Boys High School. Photo: RNZ/ Luka Forman

"There's stuff that you just can't learn in theory, when you're dealing with young people every day, in terms of little behaviour management strategies and the administration of the job and managing a classroom. You just can't match it."  

While learning on the job, trainees were still required to complete university papers, but they could do this remotely and still end up with a teaching diploma. 

Their university fees were covered, and the school paid them a stipend to cover their living costs while they worked there.

Westlake boys High School principal David Ferguson

Westlake boys High School principal David Ferguson. Photo: RNZ/ Luka Forman

Westlake Boys High principal David Ferguson said the success of the Auckland Schools' Teacher Training Programme spoke for itself. 

"The 45, 46, that qualified in the first two years, every single one them ended up working in the school who trained them - apart from one who relocated to a different city and picked up a job there anyway."  

It was the school's responsibility to support the teachers through the year and make sure they were getting the help they needed.  

Ferguson said 80 percent of those doing the programme this year had switched from a different career, and most of them would not have been interested in going back to uni. 

"Knowing that they probably would never have found their way into teaching if it wasn't for this program, just makes it feel like we're really on to something." 

Ferguson said they were aiming for a 50 percent increase in the number of trainees doing the course next year. 

Acting president of the Post-Primary Teachers' association Chris Abercrombie said it supported school based training, but had some concerns about equity for rural and lower decile schools: "Having the staffing ability to be able to manage these programs within the schools, having the individuals that want to be involved, so those are our main concerns around equity. 

"It doesn't appear that lower decile schools have access to this."

One lower decile school that was a part of the programmes was James Cook High School in South Auckland. 

It was a part of both the Auckland Schools' programme, as well as another called Teach First. 

James Cook High School principal Grant McMillan

James Cook High School principal Grant McMillan says the train on the job schemes have been valuable for his school. Photo: RNZ/ Luka Forman

Principal Grant McMillan said the programmes were a big help in overcoming the shortage of qualified teachers.

"They're making a huge difference and they're helping us get different people at different stages of their life into teaching."

He said training quality teachers had never been more important, with shortages expected to get worse. 
McMillan said these programmes were not going to replace traditional teacher training, but it was good to give aspiring teachers options.