3 Jul 2021

Border exemption created for 300 teachers to enter New Zealand

5:50 pm on 3 July 2021

A border exemption will allow 300 overseas qualified teachers to enter New Zealand under a new class.

Empty classroom chairs and desks (kindergarten primary).

Photo: 123RF

Education Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement today, and said there was a teacher shortage from the early childhood education level through to secondary school.

Some subjects and areas of the country had been particularly difficult to find teachers for, he said in a statement.

The exemption would help meet some immediate needs, especially for 2022 recruitment.

"To put it into context, in a typical year before the border was closed we'd expect to get about 600 teachers coming in, in any given year," Hipkins said.

"So the 300 exemption is a start, it gets us halfway to what we would normally get from abroad if there were not border restrictions in place."

The move is being welcomed by the PPTA, the union for principals and teachers.

The spaces would be made available on a priority system, and the Ministry of Education would be in charge of making sure schools with the "greatest recruitment needs" got access.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announcing extra funding to give early childhood teachers pay parity.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins on a school visit in May. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

"The need for additional teachers is uneven through the system," Hipkins said. "We know early childhood centres are often really struggling to recruit - particularly some of our lower socio-economic early childhood centres.

"And we know in secondary schools it can be a subject speciality that we can be very short of."

Applications for the teachers will open from September.

"We are working really hard to train more teachers, but that takes three to four years," Hipkins said.

"So there's a demand here and now that we need to be able to meet. So the border exemption will allow us to bring in 300 qualified teachers from abroad to fill the immediate gap."

Teachers who had been working in New Zealand, but had been shut out by border closures may also be able to return under the scheme, he said.

And a separate family reunification border exemption was being created for the partners and dependent children of teachers who were already in New Zealand on temporary visas.

"A lot of families were separated when border restrictions were put in place to protect New Zealand from Covid-19, and we know this has been hard for them."

Hipkins said the "overall" long-term outlook for teacher supply was good.

Training needed to adjust to NZ - union

A union for principals and teachers, the PPTA, said is is glad the government is recognising that there is a teachers' shortage, by allowing 300 extra staff into the country.

PPTA president Melanie Webber said the shortage is not being addressed by New Zealanders returning because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"They'll absolutely fill some gaps, they won't fill all of the gaps and I think it's really important that we keep looking at the reasons why we're unable to get enough New Zealand trained teachers," she said.

She said a lot of work will have to go into helping the new staff teach in a New Zealand context.

They won't resolve the huge shortage of te ao Māori teachers, she said.

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