25 Jul 2023

Principals face difficulties attracting foreign teachers to New Zealand

2:33 pm on 25 July 2023
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File photo. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Principals say they are finding it harder to attract foreign teachers from traditional source countries like the UK and Canada. Teaching Council figures show 912 foreign teachers applied for New Zealand registration in the first six months of this year, compared to 1002 in the same period in 2019.

But principals like Sam Mortimer from Greymouth High School said the supply of teachers from preferred source countries like England and Scotland seemed to have dried up.

She said her school tried to recruit a head of maths from overseas, generating just two expressions of interests but no applicants.

"We advertised in New Zealand for eight months, we advertised overseas using the Times Educational Supplement which went to the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa. We had only two people respond to that. I thought we'd get some people from England or the UK, Scotland, Ireland to apply, but no," she said.

Mortimer said foreign teachers were not a first option because it cost so much time and effort to recruit them, even though the Education Ministry covered $3500 of the cost.

"It costs a lot of money to do that. We have to pay for recruitment agencies, we have to pay for the new job check which is nearly $700 each time, it takes a lot of time and energy and recruitment agencies can charge between $4000 and $8000 per teacher," she said.

Secondary Principals Association president Vaughan Couillault said foreign teachers might be coming to New Zealand for primary and early childhood jobs, but secondary schools were not seeing them.

"Certainly talking to my colleagues I don't get a sense that there's a regular flow of overseas teachers in the secondary space that are helping to fill gaps that we might have on our staff," he said.

Couillault said there seemed to be fewer applicants from the traditional big sources of the UK and Canada and more from South East Asia and Fiji.

He said foreign teachers were a short-term solution to the teacher shortage, which was as bad as ever.

"I get a sense that it hasn't really eased in the secondary space and if it is starting to ease it might be easing quantity-wise but not quality-wise and we're still in a state where we're likely to have to advertise more than once for a position and we're not likely to get a decent field of applicants for a position," he said.

Stu Birch from recruitment agency EP Education said a lot of foreign teachers wanted to come to New Zealand, but fewer were coming from traditional sources such as the UK, Canada and the US.

"The volume at the moment of teachers applying for jobs, their experience is in education systems that are really different from New Zealand and schools sometimes struggle with that. Their ideal applicant is someone with experience in a system similar to New Zealand," he said.

Birch said it might just take time to get the flow of teachers from the traditional source countries running again.

"We are seeing it starting to pick up. We're starting to see some of the working holiday visa teachers coming back. It's slow but it is happening now."

Birch said teachers that wanted to move to New Zealand often started the process six months or a year before they actually moved.

"We've got teachers that want to come next year but schools need teachers now and they're not set up to recruit for jobs in six or 12 months time. That's something only recruiters can do," he said.

Birch said some schools could not afford to recruit foreign teachers even with financial support from the Education Ministry.

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