New Zealand is currently in the middle of what is being called a ‘dire teacher shortage,’ however the Tasman region is yet to feel the effects.
In October last year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced an extra $10.5 million in funding, on top of the $29.5 million already announced in 2017. That included up to 230 grants of $10,000 for schools to get more teachers into classrooms.
The government targeted more than 6000 overseas teachers towards the end of last year in a campaign to bring teachers in to help fill the shortage, with $5 million set aside for relocation grants and finders fees. The plan aimed to address a shortage of 650 primary school teachers and 200 secondary school teachers nationwide.
The recruitment drive attracted more than 7000 applications, and just over 200 overseas teachers have been hired, with almost 1000 waiting to be interviewed.
The Ministry of Education has expressed concerns about not having enough new teachers coming into the system to cope with the shortage.
Students beginning teacher training have gone down from 3590 in 2008 to 2790 in 2017.
Getting teachers to stay in the profession has also been a problem. A survey of primary and early childhood education teachers found that 17 per cent of new teachers expect to leave the profession with five years of graduating.
Teacher unions have linked the declining number of students coming into teaching and staying in the profession to salaries not increasing. In 2001, teacher salaries were 25 per cent above the New Zealand median wage. By 2017 a teachers salary was 1 per cent below the medial wage.
A survey by the the New Zealand Educational Institute, the primary teachers union, in 2018 found that the teacher shortage was felt more in lower decile schools, with just over 60 per cent of principals in the lowest three decile schools saying they did not have the teachers that they needed. The survey showed that 90 per cent of primary and intermediate principals were unable to find relief teachers for when full-time teachers were away from school.
The areas where there are the most vacancies are in Auckland and Wellington, where the cost of living has increased well beyond the average teacher salary.
However, the Tasman region seems to be bucking the trend.
Saint Paul’s principal Maureen Phillips, said for the last two years St Paul’s increased its roll by adding a classroom of 30 students a year and taken on two additional teachers to help with that.
Although the school had plenty of applications for a position it advertised earlier this year, Maureen said the number of applications had decreased since 2017.
The high calibre of schools in the Tasman area was one reason why the district seemed to be avoiding the teacher shortage being felt in other parts of the country.
“We really do get the best here because people want to live and work in this area, so you get a lot more applicants, and therefore the quality tends to be higher.”
Richmond School principal Tim Brenton agreed. “We haven’t had many issues attracting high quality applicants, we are very fortunate to have very professional, multi-talented teachers.”
And while there is also a national shortage of relief teachers, Brightwater School principal Gerald Baldwin says that is not a problem he has seen locally.
“While we have no full-time teacher shortage in 2019. We also have plenty of relievers currently available for day-to-day and short-term work.”