25 Aug 2017

Auckland teacher shortage plan to be extended

9:39 am on 25 August 2017

Principals in Auckland's low-decile schools are dismayed at the government's new plan to tackle the teacher shortage by extending its cash offer to all schools in the city.

The Sky Tower, a school road crossing sign and a teacher close-up at the blackboard - in a composite photo

Photo: RNZ / 123RF

The Ministry of Education's voluntary bonding scheme, offering a one-off bonus of more than $10,000, currently applies only to newly qualified teachers at low-decile 'hard to staff' schools, but next year it will be rolled out across Auckland.

Auckland Primary Principals Association president Kevin Bush praised the move.

"Every Auckland school is a 'hard to staff' school so [the Education Minister] told us [on Wednesday] that it would be available to all Auckland schools."

However, at the first-ever teacher recruitment expo in Auckland yesterday, principals in the poorer areas were worried their jobs had just got a lot harder.

Rowandale School principal Karl Vasau said he would lose a critical selling point for his decile 1 school at a time when the pool of graduates was shrinking.

"As low-decile schools, sometimes we have that stigma or perception that it's extremely hard to work in our schools," he said.

"So that bonding scheme was an incentive for people that were courageous and wanted to come out and see that that was absolutely wrong.

"It's just something that I could use today at this event as an enticement to get someone to come and work for me."

Susan Dunlop, the principal of Yendarra School in Ōtara, which is also decile 1, was at the expo trying to find six new teachers for next year.

She said the change would be a huge hit to the school's recruitment.

"People have this wrong perception about low-decile schools and it's been fantastic that we have been able to offer something else.

"Fantastic for other Auckland schools - absolutely delighted - but for us, not such good news."

Her school was already struggling and the situation was "dire", she said.

"The fact that other teachers are taking on extra children when someone might be away sick, or we have sick people who are coming in and probably need to be at home. That's the impact it's actually having, it's huge."

The voluntary bonding scheme was introduced across the country in 2009.

Eligible teachers get $10,500 at the end of their third year teaching at a low-decile or hard-to-staff school. They get a further $3500 at the end of their fourth and fifth years.

Mr Bush said help would be given to schools in poorer suburbs, and they would not be disadvantaged.

He said new teachers at low-decile schools might still get paid more than those at better-off Auckland schools.

Mr Bush said about 600 graduates would get the cash bonus.

"It means that some of those people that are thinking that 'I can't afford to live in Auckland' might think 'well actually I can because I'm going to get this extra bit of money'.

"And they can do with it what they like - they can use it to pay off some of their student loan, they can use it to help a little bit towards a deposit for a house."

However, most of the graduates talking to the principals at yesterday's expo wanted to stay in Auckland anyway, so news of the extended scheme came as an added bonus.

"I was always set on staying in Auckland so now that that has been implemented into all schools across Auckland, it is definitely going to ground me in Auckland and keep me here," third-year Bachelor of Education student Noah Meggitt said.

Education Minister Nikki Kaye said the scheme would be available for all new Auckland teachers from next year, but the amount of money might be slightly less.

She was still working out the details, but said it would definitely be introduced regardless of the election outcome.

Ms Kaye said rolling out the scheme across Auckland was part of the $20 million commitment to fix teacher shortages.

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