15 Oct 2018

Teacher recruitment drive risks creating 'conveyor belt'

8:11 am on 15 October 2018

Workloads and pay would need to improve before NZ teacher Michael Harvey would consider returning as part of the government' recruitment drive, he says.

Michael Harvey has spent the last three years teaching overseas

Michael Harvey Photo: Supplied

The government is planning to recruit overseas teachers to deal with the chronic shortage but critics say it is papering over the cracks and risks creating a conveyor belt of teachers without increasing the supply.

The government has increased its recruitment budget to $40 million from $29.5m in a bid to get more teachers in classrooms.

It has also upped its target for recruiting overseas teachers from 400 to 900 and last week Immigration New Zealand directly emailed 6000 overseas teachers who had registered an interest in working here.

Teacher Steve McCabe, from the UK, is the type of person the government is after.

But he says working in a secondary school in New Zealand was such a depressing experience he decided to move on.

He was hired in 2009 as a physics and science teacher at a South Auckland high school but has now moved into tertiary education because he said teaching at school level was no longer sustainable for him.

"It was a very depressing experience, massive workload, very little reward, very little support for teachers."

Everything was focused on getting credits for students and the system was based on pushing more work on to teachers, he said.

Mr McCabe said if his experience is anything to go by the supply of teachers would not be increased because people will get fed up and move on.

The government needs to reduce teachers' workloads, including administrative work and dealing with behavioural problems in many schools, he said.

"Simply bringing in new teachers who don't realise what they're going to be up against and having them again burn out and leave the profession, and have like a little conveyor belt going, is only going to be a temporary patch."

Govt aims to bring NZ-trained teachers home

The government is also focusing on bringing New Zealand-trained teachers home.

Michael Harvey would be a prime target.

The secondary school science teacher has spent the last three years teaching overseas and is now in Malaysia.

But he said things would need to change to lure him back - including pay, workload and ensuring that teaching is treated like a profession where there is proper progression.

There was an expectation that teachers were in it just to help the children, but they also needed to live, he said.

"We just can't live off goodwill and the increased cost of living, increased petrol prices, the increased cost of housing, especially in metropolises like Auckland and Tauranga, it means that teachers cannot afford to actually live within their school area as well, which is also important."

Govt doing 'everything we can' to address shortage

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said a lot of New Zealand-trained teachers working abroad had expressed interest in coming back to New Zealand.

Mr Hipkins said high workloads were partly due to the teacher shortage so getting more staff would help.

He said the pay offer to teachers was "not insignificant".

"We do realise we need to bring salaries up."

Mr Hipkins told Morning Report the retention rates for teachers in New Zealand was very good by international standards.

"Teacher turnover in New Zealand is relatively low, and it's been getting lower.

"This is about making sure we are meeting the demands from roll growth.

The government was also giving free refresher training to teachers whose registrations had lapsed. "We're doing everything we can to ensure those who can be in the classroom next year are in the classroom."

National Party leader Simon Mr Bridges said the recruitment drive was good, but was not enough.

"What I would encourage them to do is have a longer-term strategy," he said.

Mr Bridges said he supported teachers having smaller classes and higher pay.

Post Primary Teachers Association members have turned down an Education Ministry offer of between 2 and 3 percent a year for three years, while members of the primary teachers' union rejected 3 percent a year for three successive years.

According to the Ministry of Education, 650 extra primary teachers and 200 extra secondary teachers will be needed in 2019.

Finlayson Park School in Manurewa is one of the country's biggest primary schools.

Principal Shirley Maihi likes the idea of getting New Zealand-trained teachers back, but said not all overseas teachers were suited to classrooms here.

"They don't know our children and their learning styles and that can be quite problematic at times."

Having overseas teachers in schools can also place an additional burden on existing staff who have to help retrain the newcomers on the job, she said.

Mr Hipkins said funding had been set aside to help overseas-trained teachers adapt to New Zealand classrooms.

The government has increased the number of Overseas Relocation Grants and made a $3000 teachers finder's fee more available in a bid to get more teachers for the next school year.

But the Post Primary Teachers Association said it was highly unlikely that would happen on time.

A social media campaign targeting overseas teachers is underway and a campaign targeting New Zealand-trained teachers working overseas will follow soon.

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