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Getting Teachers – It’s Not Simply a Matter of looking on Trade Me

Stuart Middleton


23 October 2018


We are short of teachers! So is most of the western world and answers to this situation do not come easily.

Increasing the supply of New Zealand Graduates who wish to teach should be the first consideration. I personally do not subscribe to the theory that more money is the answer (see below) because current entry level wages are competitive with the entry levels for all but a few university graduates entering other professions at first degree level. Graduating students with higher degrees and in a few selective occupations and the high fliers will need higher entry levels of payment to be attracted across to teaching.

But, having said that, levels of salary are critical to the retention of teachers and the salary structure of teachers salaries needs to be addressed to provide for an appropriate level when young graduates hit say five or six years of service.

I am not aware that the review of Tomorrow’s Schools will address the issue but perhaps there is a clear role for Boards of Trustees to have access to funding to reward young teachers who are making an energetic contribution to the school. It is often the case that young teachers arrive and get into the activities of the school with energy and youthful enthusiasm but this seems not to impact on the rewards.

I am not going to raise the issue of performance pay because there is simply no appetite among the leadership of the profession for any move in this direction.

But the preferred response to teaching shortages seems to be to import them from other countries. Bernard Salt, Australia’s highly respected demographer, has previously prediced that it will be around this period of time that a demographic faultine would develop and lead to severe shortages of skills in most western countries matched by a determination to address this through the importation of skilled labour from both countries similar to us and the those developing countries that will by then be wanting to retain their trained and skilled workers in order to support their developing economies. In short, we will need to dig deep in our own garden and find new supplies of teachers from among the people we already have.

So it is not simply that teaching is a profession that seems less attractive these days but rather that the supply of suitable labour is subject to the forces that Salt outlines. In Australia, for instance, Education ranks up amongst the group of careers that is generating most job growth ( Health, Social Assistance, Professional Sertvices and Construction are its competors).

The old theme of “let’s go to the United Kingdom and get some teachers” has been done before. In the late 60’s and early 70’s selected senior Principals would be sent over to interview the prospective applicants armed with lists of schools, subjects and vacancies. No doubt this approach worked. I know of one teacher who was offered a job in a South Waikato school and accepted on the basis that it looked quite close to Auckland (his preferred location) on his daughter’s school atlas. But he made a huge contribution at several schools as he continued his lifetime commitment to his career (in Auckland!).

Over the past decade New Zealand has had numbers of teachers from South Africa and India. Similarly they have added greatly to the diversity and quality of the New Zealand schooling system. Getting an experienced teacher entering the profession should be an advantage but getting young New Zealanders and New Zealanders of all ages interested in seeing teaching as a an enriching and rewarding first or second career is the challenges. And that won’t happen until teachers in the profession themselves believe that it is.

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