29 Sep 2017

'Desperate' plea over Auckland teacher crisis

11:01 am on 29 September 2017

Local principals have begged for help from Auckland Council, which says it will demand the next government do more to fix the city's teacher shortage.

classroom interior

Photo: supplied

A group of principals presented their plight to the council yesterday and Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the council would write a submission before the new government was sworn in.

The group, which represents schools across the city, said a survey by the Auckland Primary Principals' Association this year found that 86 percent of schools had three or more vacancies and over half were short by up to six teachers.

Balmoral School principal Malcolm Milner, who was at the meeting, said the shortage was the worst he had ever seen.

"We've got an increasing population, we've got [fewer] people wanting to train to be teachers, we've got an ageing workforce, we've got added complications to that [like] the price of accommodation," he said.

Phil Goff on the day he was elected Auckland mayor. 8 October 2016.

Phil Goff Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

St Joseph's Ōtāhuhu principal Liz Horgan said there had been little help from the Ministry of Education and children, especially in south Auckland, were suffering from the lack of experienced teachers.

"These are the children who are the most vulnerable children in our city and education is the only pathway for them out of poverty," she said.

"If they don't get quality teachers in front of them, then the outlook for them individually as people is not as good as it should be and also for us as a society, especially in Auckland."

Education Minister Nikki Kaye has said about $20 million was being spent trying to get more teachers into schools.

That included a voluntary bonding scheme for teachers, which paid up to $17,500 over five years, on top of their normal salary.

Mr Goff described the shortage as a "crisis".

"These are experienced, mature and well-regarded principals," he said.

"They're not making it up, they came to us in desperation because they see the magnitude of the problem they have in their own schools, and we're getting that feedback from parents as well."

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said councillors and principals were getting together to pressure central government.

"It's quite appropriate for us to work with the Principals' Association and our schools to get a clear idea on how many teachers are we short, what is the quantum of the problem and what's needed," she said.

"And [then] for us to advocate together with our schools to Wellington to ask them to address the problem."

She also hoped to encourage nervous property owners with empty houses to rent to critical workers such as teachers, nurses and firefighters.

The principals said the council's response had been extremely heartening and they hoped it would force the new government to admit there was a crisis and then act.

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