Ru­ral schools on hunt for teach­ers

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Taihape - ALIS­TER BROWNE

Tai­hape Area School is hop­ing Santa turns up with a teacher or two in his sack this Christ­mas prefer­ably who know their maths or sci­ence.

The an­nual end-of-year scram­ble for staff next year is on and prin­ci­pal Richard McMillan says he’s still short even though three new­bies have been re­cruited.

McMillan said area schools faced their own spe­cial chal­lenges be­cause they were a ‘‘unique breed’’.

‘‘I think they’re a fan­tas­tic thing,’’ he said.

But iso­la­tion meant they were up against it when it came to com­pet­ing on the job hire mar­ket.

So life­style was one of the things schools talked about a lot when they were on the hunt for staff.

And there are hope­ful signs that kind of pitch is start­ing to pay off, said Grant Burns, who heads up the Area Schools As­so­ci­a­tion as well as Tau­raroa Area School, 20 min­utes out of Whangarei.

Burns agreed with McMillan that area schools were unique they needed teach­ers to work across both sub­ject and age ranges.

That is, they needed to be will­ing and able to teach both pri­mary and se­condary school-aged stu­dents and two or three sub­jects, not only what they might have spe­cialised in.

‘‘The smaller the school, the

‘‘Fewer and fewer peo­ple are putting their hands up to come to work in area schools.’’

more hats a teacher has to wear,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a sit­u­a­tion that doesn’t suit ev­ery­one.’’

The as­so­ci­a­tion has 42 mem­bers so has been able to form a broad view of the prob­lems faced by area schools.

They are of­ten prob­lems with which all schools have to grap­ple but are of­ten ‘‘mag­ni­fied’’ in area schools by their iso­la­tion and is­sues which can flow from that, such as lack of ac­com­mo­da­tion.

‘‘Fewer and fewer peo­ple are putting their hands up to come to work in area schools,’’ Burns said.

But on the up­side, there was the de­vel­op­ment of vir­tual learn­ing net­works, dis­tance learn­ing, and ‘‘a bit of an ex­o­dus’’ from Auck­land be­cause of the cost of liv­ing there.

That’s some­thing now be­ing no­ticed in Tai­hape and Burns said his school had at­tracted a mu­sic teacher out of Auck­land.

As well there was the Teach First scheme, which placed univer­sity grad­u­ates in ru­ral schools to learn on the job.

Burns said area schools were of­ten com­mu­nity hubs so their sur­vival mat­tered.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/STUFF

Grant Burns, Area Schools As­so­ci­a­tion head Ru­ral schools are strug­gling to re­cruit teach­ers for small towns like Tai­hape.

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