26 May 2024

$53m extra for teacher training, recruitment, Education Minister Erica Stanford announces

9:06 pm on 26 May 2024
National MP Erica Stanford

Minister of Education Erica Stanford. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Nearly $53 million in new education funding will go towards programmes that place and train new teachers in certain schools as opposed to courses at teachers' colleges.

The money will go towards recruitment, retention and training of 1500 teachers over the next four years. In a pre-Budget announcement today, Minister for Education Erica Stanford said an estimated 680 more secondary teachers would be needed within the next three years.

It would add in-school training places for primary and intermediate teachers, as well as the current secondary programmes.

As part of the new government funding, trainee teachers will receive a $20,000 placement package, to go towards living expenses and tuition fees. Schools will also receive a contribution towards the cost of training and mentoring those new teachers.

"We have also listened to principals and teachers who have constantly stressed the importance of new trainees spending more time in the classroom with experienced mentors," Stanford said.

"This on-site training programme does exactly what they've been calling for. It lets teachers look at experienced teachers and learn from them on the job, so that they'll be more prepared for teaching when they start their first job."

The money would also fund:

  • 300 overseas teachers to relocate to New Zealand
  • costs for schools to recruit overseas teachers
  • 130 places in the  BeTTER Jobs Programme, which matches beginning and returning teachers to selected schools facing recruitment or retention challenges
  • 670 study awards and support grants for professional development of current teachers

Helpful, but more is needed - industry figures respond

NZEI Te Riu Roa - the union for primary and intermediate teachers - welcomed the placement package, but said it should be available for all teacher trainees - not just those doing in-school programmes.

"We welcome this move towards paying people to train as teachers. Although $20,000 doesn't cover the cost of living for a training teacher, this is long overdue and should be extended to everyone training, regardless of whether their pathway is in-school or university," NZEI president Mark Potter said.

However, in-school training might not provide the depth of training required to guarantee quality teaching for all children, he said.

"All students deserve a qualified teacher in front of them and we don't want to see trainees with no experience having whole-class responsibility. That's not fair on them or on students."

Without a commitment to equitable access to teacher training - specifically, Māori medium training - high-decile schools would likely benefit the most from school-based training placements, Potter said.

"High decile schools are more likely to have the resources to support school-based training, and these schools will then be first in line to hire newly qualified teachers.

"A robust initiative would guarantee all schools will benefit from new teachers."

Post Primary Teachers Association president Chris Abercrombie said 1200 more places sounded good but were the minimum the profession needed.

"[Those places] and a stipend while training will certainly help but a wider view is needed to solve these problems long term.

"We know supporting new teachers means more work for experienced teachers on top of their existing workloads and School Onsite Training Programmes aren't practical for every school or situation."

The teacher workforce was getting older, which would create more pressure on schools as they retired.

Anything that could be done to alleviate such shortages was appreciated, Abercrombie said, but the real solution to retaining already trained and experienced teachers was to make teaching an attractive profession.

"It's a great start. I think that there's going to have to be other things to look at teacher supply.

"We have our collective agreement negotiations coming up next year, so we're hopeful we'll see the same sort of positive focus from the minister when we start that process."

A recent Education Review Office report found that new teachers felt poorly prepared to teach in the classroom, and 60 percent of the principals it interviewed said their new teachers were not ready.

The report also found graduates from some universities felt better prepared than others, as did those from courses that involved more time in the classroom.

"When teachers spend more time training in the classroom they are more well- prepared when they go into the classroom out of teacher training college," Stanford said. "So this announcement ... is to make sure that we are training teachers so that they feel more confident when they start teaching."

Labour education spokesperson Jan Tinetti said it was a "shame the government is picking and choosing education targets based on what they see as easiest to achieve and is refusing to commit to a target on ending New Zealand's teacher shortage.

"Currently there are over 80 pathways to becoming a teacher in New Zealand. Today's announcement also does nothing to ensure consistency across teacher education programmes to build better outcomes."

The announcement comes just a few weeks after a group of mostly high-decile Auckland secondary schools joined to launch their own in-school training programme.

Known as The Teachers' Institute, the Trust is a collaboration between Westlake Boys High School, Auckland Grammar School, Rangitoto College, St Cuthbert's College, Diocesan School for Girls, St Peters College, Baradene College, Mount Albert Grammar School, Westlake Girls High School, Macleans College, and Liston College.

The Trust will be accepting applications from mid-2024, in time for the start of Term 1 2025.

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