28 Jan 2019

Hundreds of teacher vacancies as schools reopen

9:08 am on 28 January 2019

Schools are advertising hundreds of vacancies as they reopen for the year and principals say they're making compromises to ensure they have enough teachers.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Some principals said they had been forced to take measures such as hiring retired teachers, using several part-timers to cover a single full-time role, and asking teachers to teach subjects that were not their specialty.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid, said schools had lodged about 280 vacancies with recruitment agencies but there could be more.

It was not clear how many of the vacancies needed to be filled immediately or later in the year, she said.

The principal of Finlayson Park School in Auckland, Shirley Maihi, said she would be starting the year one teacher short due to a recent resignation.

"At this stage I don't have anyone that I am able to employ."

She would use a part timer to fill that position for the time being, she said.

Auckland Primary Principals Association president Helen Varney said many schools had to make compromises.

"It may be that the classes might be slightly bigger. It may be that classes could have part-time teachers in there instead of one teacher for the whole week."

Ms Varney said schools were taking stop-gap measures and the teacher shortage was not yet over.

"It's going to continue to grow as teachers leave the profession, as less people come in to train as teachers, and possibly as the population grows," she said.

Secondary Principals Association president Mike Williams said its members tried to make sure they finished 2018 with all their 2019 staffing in place, even if that meant doing things like persuading retired teachers to rejoin the workforce or asking a PE teacher to teach junior maths.

"It's not acceptable to leave it till the start of this year, although many couldn't find solutions last year and they are still looking to fill those last positions.".

Mr Williams said those principals would now be looking to recruit overseas teachers.

Ms MacGregor-Reid, from the ministry, said a campaign launched in October had succeeded in attracting 7300 foreign teachers and New Zealanders based overseas.

"We now have around a 1000 qualified overseas teachers ready to interview and we have 220 offers made and accepted by those teachers to come into classrooms starting from term one," she said.

Ms MacGregor-Reid said 62 percent of the hired teachers were going to primary schools and the remainder to secondary schools. Nearly all were overseas-trained teachers rather than returning New Zealanders and most were going to schools in Auckland.

The managing director of recruitment agency Education Personnel, Stuart Birch, said it was hard to tell if schools were starting the year with more unfilled vacancies than in previous years, but the pool of potential applicants was larger.

"We've got more teachers available at the moment than we've had certainly over the last couple of years. There's good numbers of overseas teachers wanting to come to New Zealand and a few Kiwi teachers still available as well."

Mr Birch said demand was highest among schools in Auckland, particularly South Auckland.

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