15 Jun 2016

Trainee teacher plan 'formula for disaster'

9:00 pm on 15 June 2016

Putting trainee teachers in charge of classrooms is dangerous and a recipe for disaster, educators have told Parliament's Education and Science Select Committee.

The committee was hearing submissions on legislation that would allow the Education Ministry to create teaching jobs only student teachers can apply for.


Photo: 123rf

The proposed change comes after the Employment Relations Authority ruled that jobs occupied by student teachers in the Teach First training programme must be advertised like any other teaching jobs.

Teach First places graduates who have completed an intensive teaching course in secondary schools where they work part-time as teachers while studying for their teaching qualification.

Graduate School of Education director Kevin Knight told the select committee the Teach First model was appropriate for third-world countries that had trouble training teachers, but it was not appropriate for New Zealand.

Dr Knight said his organisation's trainees spent about two thirds of their time in classrooms, but they were supervised during that time.

He said it was totally inappropriate to give teaching jobs to students who worked under minimal oversight.

"I was a principal of a low decile secondary school. Behaviour issues are extreme in these situations and to put a person who is untrained and without an experienced person alongside them is a formula for disaster."

Dr Knight said the proposed law change would allow Teach First to grow and other providers to adopt a similar model.

But he said there were not enough teachers capable of mentoring trainee teachers.

"The moment you roll it out to other schools and broaden it, the teachers are simply not good enough to provide that mentoring. The quality of New Zealand teachers to extensively mentor is not robust enough to mentor a field-based programme successfully."

Dr Knight said any expansion of school-based teacher training would fall flat on its face.

Tauranga school principal and NZEI representative Jan Tinetti told the committee whoever wrote the amendment did not understand that primary teachers needed extensive curriculum and teaching knowledge.

"Whoever's put this together does not have that intricate knowledge of what actually happens and that pedagogical knowledge and how strong that needs to be and how damaging that can be to children when someone's in front of them that doesn't actually have that knowledge."

Ms Tinetti said it would be dangerous to put trainee teachers in sole charge of primary school children.

She said Auckland principals had told her the proposal would not help them solve their staffing problems and some were already stressed by employing large numbers of inexperienced newly-graduated teachers.

"Categorically they said 'absolute no'. We want highly-trained qualified people teaching our children."

Teach First director Shaun Sutton told the committee he could not comment on primary schools but the programme was working well in secondary schools.

"Independent NZCER evaluation reports have demonstrated that schools want this programme and they want it because it's getting more top graduates into lower decile schools, raising NCEA results and engaging students in some really powerful ways in low decile schools."

Mr Sutton said Teach First supported the proposed change because it would clarify the employment of its students.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the union had supported the Teach First programme, but trainees working in schools needed a lot of support because their work directly affected children's futures.

Ms Roberts said the committee should reject or at least delay the legislation because it would cause problems and solve nothing.

"I urge you to send it back and make them start again."

Ms Roberts said education groups and the Education Ministry had been working on teacher supply, and nobody had suggested during that work that schools needed to employ trainee teachers.