Teacher shortage looming
Waikato schools are a couple of years away from having the same problems finding teachers currently experienced in Auckland, according to Waikato Principals' Association president Hamish Fenemor.
A survey of 66 per cent of Auckland schools found half were struggling to fill up to four vacant teaching positions and had advertised up to five times to attract staff. Teachers were being pulled out of management and part time positions which has a ripple effect as those jobs went understaffed.
Auckland Primary Principals Association president Kevin Bush cited the main reasons as Auckland's expensive living costs — the costs of housing, rentals, transport, an aging teacher workforce and workload which were encouraging many teachers to say enough's enough.
Fenemor, principal at Cambridge East School, warned the Waikato was heading in the same direction.
“We are in the same situation as Auckland only a couple of years behind. We are starting to experience a shortage of quality New Zealand-trained and experienced teachers. Increasingly it is hard to find affordable housing even in the Waikato.''
‘Negative press' was having the effect of scaring potential teachers from training.
“The number of students going through teachers colleges is falling. The number of hoops trainee teachers need to jump through to meet their registered teacher certificate requirements is leading a lot of new teachers to say “blow this”.
Another factor making teaching less desirable as a career was the fate of anyone “dragged before the Education Council,” he said.
“The outcome of any hearing becomes public knowledge and goes into the press.”
Many teachers study toward a degree in education which can take three to four years. However, there are short-cut one year graduate programmes aimed at people who have already attained degrees in other subjects like
science or mathematics. A problem arose when the shortcourse people were put in front of a class with a full work load and found the going difficult, Fenemor said.
“The pressure is going to come on in the next six months. Normally we have needed staff lined up 12 months in advance. I have two new entrant classes and I don’t have anyone lined up to fill the vacancies. I know three or four schools which are panicking because they are two or three teachers down for the third term.”
A contributing factor was roll growth.
Mr Fenemor’s school, Cambridge East’s roll had grown by 70 students in the past three years. Hamilton’s Rhode St School principal Shane Ngatai said he knew several schools in Hamilton that had advertised teaching positions and had no applications.
“Hamilton is experiencing pretty fast growth and if schools find they can’t get relieving teachers to fill the gaps that means they’ve got permanent work.”
Marcus Freke is the principal of the near-new Endeavour School in Flagstaff. Opened in February 2015, Endeavour’s roll has rocketed from 100 to 450 and is heading for 600 before another new school, Sylvester, is scheduled to be opened in the area.
Mr Freke said despite his school being state of the art it was still a challenge attracting teachers, in particular experienced teachers.
“We advertised for three positions and got 13 replies but they included a couple from overseas, and a couple of beginning teachers. We struggled. There are not a lot of teachers in the system.”
Freke said many teachers were more used to teaching in the traditional ‘single cell’ environment and may not feel comfortable in the ‘flexible learning space’ of the new school design.
“Things are likely to get worse with changes to teacher registration rules. Teachers who don’t work in full-time positions for five years lose their registration and are required to do a refresher course which costs around $4000. This will mean older and retired teachers who had been happy doing day to day relieving probably won’t bother to re-register.”
Puketaha is a popular country school just outside Hamilton’s north eastern boundary. It has an enrolment zone, a roll of 285 and is turning away five to 10 students a week. Principal Geoff Booth said he was experiencing the same situation.
“The glut of teachers there was around 18 to 24 months ago had gone. You want to get a balance of new and experienced people. We are lucky to have a couple of regular relievers we can call on. Often relievers are mums who only want to work a few days a week. They don’t want a full time job and the teacher registration requirements mean they ask themselves if it’s worth it.”
‘We are in the same situation as Auckland only a couple of years behind.’ HAMISH FENEMOR Waikato Principals’ Association president
Marcus Freke, principal of the new Endeavour School.