you're reading...
Education, Education Council (NZ), New Zealand, Teacher Training, Teachers Council (by any name)

Teacher Refresher Course Confusing & Exasperating

EC 2

Alerted to concerns, I met with a teachers as they completed the Education Council’s Teacher Refresher Course to get a sense of what they thought of the course and the need to undertake it. What I heard was unexpected and alarming.

The Cost

$4,000. Four Thousand Dollars. That’s how much the 12-week refresher course costs. And that’s just for the course. I expected people to raise concerns about that – I’d already had a few on social media – but there were issues I’d not yet considered.

Yes the course is expensive, they said – but why?  Compare it with the cost for the full one year graduate teaching programme – it doesn’t stack up, they said. So I did some research:

All of which begs the question, why it is $4,000 for a 12-week course?

It surprised me, too, to hear that attendees could not apply for student loans to pay for the course.  Teachers spoke of putting the cost on credit cards or using bank loans, and of overdraft bills being racked up as costs mounted.

They also pointed out that in addition to the course cost, they’d lost a term’s wages, often had to pay for accommodation, had travel costs (many people were from out of town) and had had to pay for childcare (especially those from out of town). Suddenly the actual costs were far in excess of $4k… For a twelve week course.

All of which, many noted, might be just about bearable if you felt the course was necessary…

Itinerant Teachers

One teacher explained that he is an itinerant music teacher. He does no classroom teaching at all, working only one-to-one or one-to-two teaching musical instruments in a number of schools across a large geographical area. The schools he goes to, he says, are very happy with his work – indeed he’s been doing this for well over a decade and everyone was just dandy with the set up – the teacher himself, the schools, the students and the Teachers Council. Then came the Education Council (EC).

Suddenly, this teacher was told he must do the Teacher Refresher Course if he wanted to continue working in schools.  “Why?” he asked. He explained to EC that he knows of many itinerant music teachers who are not even qualified teachers, and they were allowed to carry on teaching – so why couldn’t he?  He was informed that because he had at one time been a fully qualified teacher, he couldn’t do as the other itinerant teachers and work under a Limited Authority to Teach (LAT), but had to regain his fully registered teacher status. Which means, in a nutshell, he is being punished for having once trained as a teacher!

It makes no sense. If other itinerant music teachers can be unqualified teachers and work under an LAT as specialists, then why can’t he?

This teacher doesn’t want to be a full time teacher or a classroom teacher of any sort. He doesn’t want to take relieving work. He has no wish to do any teaching other than the one-to-one or one-to-two itinerant music teaching he has done for well over a decade. Like his itinerant music teacher colleagues do.

So he has undertaken the Teacher Refresher Course to allow him to carry on earning his living – a course that was focused around classroom teaching, National Standards, paperwork requirements and so on – none of which applies at all to the job he does.

How does the Education Council justify that?

Relief Teachers

Still reeling from the mind-boggling bureaucratic nightmare of the music teacher’s story, I was approached by a teacher who wanted to speak about their situations as a reliever.

This teacher said she has no wish to be employed as a full- or part-time classroom teacher on a contract, content with working as a relief teacher. She explained she is much in demand, has regular schools that she’d worked with for years, and is up to date with changes in the sector such as National Standards. She’d been teaching for decades.

Prior to the change from Teachers Council to Education Council, she had been able to continue relieving year on year with no problems, but with the Education Council, everything changed. Now, she was told, if she wanted to carry on relieving, she must do the Teacher Refresher Course. No ifs or buts.

So she, like the music teacher, had done the course only to find it focused on things that really had little to no bearing on her work as a reliever. “It’s not as if I’ve learned anything I need,” she said, frustrated that she’d been made to jump through hoops only because of what seems to be a lack of flexibility in the Education Council’s rules.

Inconsistent Information

What interested me with the above scenario was how the information she’d been given compared to the information I’d been given not weeks before by two representatives from the Education Council…

I was informed face-to-face in a room full of senior teachers and principals that I wouldn’t have to do the Refresher Course if I was going to continue “only relieving”. The EC staff were very clear that the Refresher Course was necessary only if I wanted to go back to an actual classroom teaching contract. I could carry on with my Subject To Confirmation status and still be a reliever. Yet this teacher had been told something entirely different and was now thousands of dollars in debt…  So which information is right?

Teachers with Medical Issues

Just when I thought I’d heard it all – and I can tell you, my head was reeling by this point – I was approached by this lady…

She has been teaching for decades, too. She sustained a head injury towards the end of her teacher training and as a result has never been able to work full time. This means she never completed the two year induction for new teachers. As a result, the Education Council informed her she must undertake the Refresher Course and become a fully registered teacher to continue teaching in any capacity.

This woman has a brain injury. She can only ever work part time. She can only ever work at the most as a reliever.  She is, she explained, unable to sustain what is needed to work as a contracted classroom teacher responsible for planning, testing, report writing and so on. She knows this, her schools know this, and all is well; She is a good reliever, with a number of regular schools that she’s worked for for years.

The Teachers Council would, at re-registration time, receive a doctor’s note explaining her condition and information from the schools she works with, and they would accept that she is a fully competent teacher in the role as part-time reliever. Teachers Council would re-register her. No problem. The Education Council, however, insisted on her undertaking the Refresher Course.

The course had been an enormous strain on her. It is full time, with in-class placements overlapping with research, essays and presentations in what is a busy twelve weeks for even an entirely well person. For someone with a brain injury, it was incredibly hard work. And yet, she was faced with either soldiering on at a potential cost to her health or not doing the course and losing her means of income.

Telling me the whole sorry tale, she looked tired, sounded exasperated, and had an air of defeat. “I don’t understand the reasoning,” she said. No, nor do I.


Everyone I spoke to accepted that teachers who never completed their two years as provisionally registered teachers would need a refresher course, having not had time to put their knowledge into practice and grow as a teacher after first qualifying. The course attendees I spoke to that were in those circumstances said the course had been beneficial and their only concern was the financial cost.

But those teachers who had no intention of being classroom teachers ever again and who usually had years (often decades) of classroom teaching experience felt the Education Council needed to look again at both the criteria for doing the course and the course’s content.

If itinerant and relief teachers are being forced to do it, then the course needs to reflect their roles and their needs. If competency is the issue, then the course must address their competency in the roles they undertake. At the moment, in many cases, it doesn’t – making the whole affair a very expensive and extremely frustrating farce.

~ Dianne


Further Reading

Details of courses and requirements:

Itinerant music programme losing teachers due to Education Council requirements:

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


23 thoughts on “Teacher Refresher Course Confusing & Exasperating

  1. Well – if there is already a shortage of relieving teachers in Auckland imagine what the situation will be like in a few years!! How stupid.


    Posted by juliettelaird | July 13, 2016, 5:46 pm
    • Thatsb not half of the story. In 6 years everyone who has cone the course will have to pay another $4000 to do it again if they have not gained full time employment. Relieving teachers will be leaving in droves. Also you cant get a loan to do the course and are not eligable for student allowance while you are doing it. CRAZY BUREAUCRATS!


      Posted by Brett Hitchens | July 28, 2016, 3:20 pm
  2. Hi Diane – we just wanted you and your readers to know we are working on this issue, You probably weren’t aware when you wrote this story but we are listening to the concerns of teachers in this position. The Education Council acknowledges this issue and we believe we can come up with a solution. We acknowledge there could be greater flexibility. It’s our job to support teachers so we are now working on how we can do this. We would welcome your feedback – please do get in touch with us. Our deputy chief executive is leading this work. We really hope to hear from you. .


    Posted by Fiona Mayo | July 14, 2016, 8:29 am
    • Hello Fiona, thank you for responding, and that’s good to hear. The teachers on this course were fuming (truly) when I spoke to them – they said repeatedly that when they raised concerns with Education Council representatives (who visited on the first day of the course) they were shot down in flames. They talked of the reps being rude, offensive, shutting them up – the teachers were very cross. In fact, that’s how I first heard about the concerns. You may wish to address that in-house, too. I do hope the course requirements become more flexible, and fast, and that the issue of registration for those of us relievers who DO want a teaching contract but can’t find a job is looked into seriously as well . ~ Dianne


      Posted by Save Our Schools NZ | July 14, 2016, 9:56 am
      • Righto Dianne – feel free to email me – it would be good to talk to you. We’ll look into your comments too. Appreciate you giving us the opportunity to respond!


        Posted by Fiona Mayo | July 14, 2016, 10:02 am
        • I just did this course, I have 4 kids and don’t want to teach Fulltime, was a tough 12 weeks. I needed to do it but others on my course had huge issues. More flexibility needs added for those of us relieving or not wanting Fulltime work


          Posted by azlemed | July 14, 2016, 11:26 am
          • Hi there – we’ve put this comment on our Facebook page – just so you know.

            “We want to address an issue with itinerant music teachers and relief teachers, and the role of the Teacher Education Refresh programme. We are pulling together a team to look into this issue with urgency.
            The TER programme is designed to assist teachers who have had a provisional practising certificate for more than six years so they are well prepared to teach successfully.
            While we all want what’s best for our profession – and that means holding ourselves to account on high standards of competency – we also want to make sure the policy is flexible.
            The system works for most teachers but there are some it doesn’t work for, and we acknowledge that.
            We are starting the conversation about how we can address this situation. If you have any comments or views on this please email us at

            We’d appreciate if you could email us to help us get an assessment of the issue – thanks

            Liked by 1 person

            Posted by Fiona Mayo | July 19, 2016, 10:53 am
          • Hi there. I am in the same boat. I have four kids, live out of town and don’t want to teach full time. I cannot do a refresher course until January. That’s three terms without work,which is very challenging. The fact I need to pay $4000 and do a block of unpaid teaching within the ‘refresher’ (more like ‘stessor’) course, is also quite insulting.


            Posted by Kirsten Milne | August 17, 2016, 11:19 am
    • Just to add to this list of frustrated teachers, what about teachers who have worked for years, before taking time off from full time teaching to be mothers. This crazy cost will force some people to have to choose between going back to work early or staying at home with their kids.


      Posted by Katie | July 28, 2016, 12:43 pm
  3. Hi there Dianne – we just wanted you and your readers to know that the Education Council acknowledges this issue and is working to address it. It’s our job to support teachers and we think we can work with teachers in this position to find a solution. We’re very sorry if teachers have been given confusing information or haven’t felt listened to or supported. We would really like to hear from you Dianne – and talk with you about your experiences and story. Our deputy chief executive is leading the work to find a solution. We’re confident we can get this issue fixed. Thanks


    Posted by Fiona Mayo | July 14, 2016, 8:40 am
  4. Just a couple of factual corrections, Dianne. If you’re Subject to Confirmation, then you’ve been fully registered/certificated, and you will never be required to do a TER course. It’s the people who never made it through to fully registered/certificated that this all applies to. Also, the issue with LATs is that the Act makes it very clear, and so did the previous Act, that the LAT status is only for people who are not teacher qualified, so this is not the Council making that decision. On the other hand, I agree that there’s an irony about the fact that the LAT rules were actually made more loose in the amendment act that brought us the Education Council, in that LATs are not attached to a particular school and job description but more to identified shortages in geographical areas, or having particular skills to advance learning, so if I’m an ITM teaching bassoon, for example, I would almost certainly qualify for a LAT because it’s not a kind of teacher in very good supply! We are delighted at PPTA that the Council has agreed to review this situation, because a lot of people are being forced to waste their time and money. Secondary schools are screaming out for relievers since the TER requirement came into effect, and just can’t find any, and they’re furious. And ITMs are often being made to do a TER course and then find that they still don’t have a route to full certification because they are working in small jobs across more than 2 schools to make up the 12 1/2 hours required, and the Council has been rejecting them for full certification.


    Posted by Judie Alison, Advisory Officer (Professional Issues), PPTA | July 22, 2016, 4:47 pm
    • Thanks Judie, it’s interesting that some of what you say doesn’t correlate with what I was told by Lesley Hoskin, Deputy Chief of the Education Council, just this week when we talked. And I think that’s part of the issue – who does and doesn’t have to do the course (and why) is not clear even for those of us trying very hard to understand the guidelines. I myself am STC and have been told on three occassions that when my STC runs out in April I will have to do the TER or lose my certification. So what’s right and what’s wrong, and why the confusion? Either way it’s not good, is it?

      On the plus side, the Education Council know there are issues and are looking into it. Lesley is most determined to ensure the guidelines are clearer and applied more reasonably, and wants to hear from anyone who has done the course or is being made to do the course, especially if they have concerns. This is their statement:

      Education Council says: “We want to address an issue with itinerant music teachers and relief teachers, and the role of the Teacher Education Refresh programme. We are pulling together a team to look into this issue with urgency.

      “The TER programme is designed to assist teachers who have had a provisional practising certificate for more than six years so they are well prepared to teach successfully.

      “While we all want what’s best for our profession – and that means holding ourselves to account on high standards of competency – we also want to make sure the policy is flexible.

      “The system works for most teachers but there are some it doesn’t work for, and we acknowledge that.

      “We are starting the conversation about how we can address this situation. If you have any comments or views on this please email us at

      Do email them – without feedback they won’t know what your concerns are.

      ~ Dianne


      Posted by Save Our Schools NZ | July 22, 2016, 7:37 pm
  5. I have had my Provisional Registration for nearly 3 years, its due to expire in March next year. I don’t have $4000 to do the refresher course. I don’t have any intention on working full time as a teacher. I have been relief teaching, and I would like to continue with that part-time. With the high cost of the course, I may be forced to look at another part-time job, and my teaching training and experience will just be a big waste of time. I feel sorry for the schools, they will be loosing a lot of teachers. The refresher course needs to change to accomodate the needs of the relief teachers, and the cost needs to be lowered dramatically.


    Posted by Sarah | December 29, 2016, 11:07 am
  6. I am a retired teacher with a BA BMus and Dip TESOL qualification who would like to do some relief teaching but am no longer registered Does this mean I would have to do this course? There used to be a situation where you could do 10 days relieving without being currently registered. Is this no longer the case?


    Posted by Suzanne Whitten | May 7, 2018, 11:03 am
    • Since writing this post, the Education Council has taken the feedback and changed the requirements. To find out the latest requirements, you are best calling them. If you do have to do the course, it is not free of charge, I believe. Good luck.


      Posted by Save Our Schools NZ | May 7, 2018, 9:05 pm
  7. I’m currently doing the TER Programme and it is still ridiculous. It’s an overly academic, box ticking exercise that bears very little relevance to what actually goes on in the classroom. The assessments are unclear and they force you to jump through multiple, ridiculous hoops. There’s a teacher shortage and it just shows why. Time to chuck out the TER.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Ems | December 18, 2018, 2:44 pm
  8. I’ve been doing the TER and have just been told by the Council that I can’t get registered until I’ve finished it. The only option is to get a job then get the principal to sign off some paperwork so that I can do both at the same time. But I was going to relief teach, not get a job. I can’t get employed as a relief teacher without being registered! They make you jump through hoops to become a teacher and then they wonder why there’s a teacher shortage. Oh. My. God. The Education Council must be full of halfwits.


    Posted by Ems | February 4, 2019, 3:00 pm
  9. I did my TER course by taking loan and paying interest. What did I get in the end still a relief teacher. I will be completing three years this Sep I am really in a fix.


    Posted by Mary Kennedy | April 8, 2019, 10:32 am


  1. Pingback: Teacher Refresher Course Confusing & Exasperating – tonycairns - July 13, 2016

  2. Pingback: Teacher Education Refresh – Education Council is asking for feedback | Save Our Schools NZ - July 28, 2016

  3. Pingback: What National Have Done To Education in 2016 (so far)? | Save Our Schools NZ - September 7, 2016

  4. Pingback: What National Has Done To Education in 2016 (so far) | Save Our Schools NZ - September 7, 2016

Share your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Save Our Schools NZ on

Category list:


%d bloggers like this: