Teacher Shortages

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Just what are primary school teachers asking for? And what has Ministry offered?

This week, NZEI teacher members rejected the Ministry of Education’s second pay and conditions offer and voted to go on strike again. But what is it they want? And what’s been offered?

What we want:

  • SENCO –  A Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for every school, so that children with additional needs have a dedicated expert. This job is almost always tacked onto the roles of teachers already busy with many responsibilities, and so doesn’t always get the dedicated attention it needs.
  • RELEASE TIME – Significant increases to release time so that teachers can complete assessment properly and have time to discuss and interpret the data they gather. Two days per term is just not enough to do all of this.
  • PAY – 16% increase over the course of a two year agreement.
  • PAY PARITY – A renewal of the pay parity clauses so that primary teachers aren’t worse off than high school teachers.
  • SALARY CAP – Remove the qualification-based salary cap so that teachers are no longer unfairly penalised for having trained under the earlier Diploma system and can move up the entire pay scale with experience as other teachers do.

What Ministry has offered:

  • SENCO – Nothing! 
  • RELEASE TIME – Nothing! (In the first offer, Ministry offered addition release equal to 12 minutes’ release per week, but that was withdrawn in the 2nd offer).
  • PAY – 3% per year over a three year agreement.
  • PAY PARITY – Agreed to renew the pay parity clause.
  • SALARY CAP – Allow only one additional step for those teachers affected by the cap.

As you can see, what was asked for and what has been offered aren’t even close to each other. Only one condition was met as asked for, and that is the Pay Parity clause. Dedicated SENCOs to support students with special educational needs are not in Ministry’s offer, miserly release time in the first offer was withdrawn in the second offer, and the pay offer is less than asked for and over a longer period, and Diploma-trained teachers continue to get paid far less than their colleagues despite having the most experience (and often being team leaders, senior staff, and the ones that train new teachers)!

When we are hundreds of teachers short for next year, and we know we will be thousands of teachers short within a couple of years, you’d think Ministry would listen to teachers and make the job more manageable and attractive so that we keep the teachers we already have and attract new ones.  But no.

Something’s got to give: Strike action dates and information can be found here.

If you want to see in full what NZEI teacher members are asking for and what was offered by Ministry, look here.

~ Dianne


The true costs of teacher training

This UK report looks at the true cost of teacher training, taking into account the costs to government and the retention rate of the teacher trainees to work out the true cost per teacher who is still teaching after 5 years.

Key findings:

  • There is a need for local demand for teachers to be taken into account in teacher trainee allocations.
  • Retention is affected by the relative pay of teachers and other local workers, so national pay restraint for teachers has the potential to reduce retention.
  • Teach First recruits work out very costly compared to other routes into teaching.
  • Teach First teachers have a far higher drop out rate than teachers trained by other routes, with 60% not teaching after 5 years compared with 40% of those trained by other routes.
  • There is little evidence that paying bursaries to teachers in shortage subjects helps attract and retain them.

Since New Zealand also has issues with teacher recruitment and retention, with shortages on some areas and a glut of teachers in others, and since we too have Teach First as a route into teaching, it would be interesting to know how this compares to New Zealand.

~ Dianne

Image courtesy of sattva at



Primary job shortages not mirrored in secondary – PPTA

PPTA logoA survey from March 2015 shows that secondary schools are finding it difficult to recruit teachers for many positions.

“The experience in secondary schools is very different from that in primary with regards to recruitment of teachers”, PPTA President Angela Roberts said.

“While many teachers in the primary sector are finding it difficult to get secure jobs, in secondary schools the number of job ads has been climbing in recent years, and it is increasingly hard to recruit teachers in the sciences, maths, technology and Te Reo Maori,” she said.

A 2014 Ministry of Education report on teacher supply noted 47% of secondary teaching jobs were re-advertised, while the figure in primary is 22%. This was an increase from 2013.

The PPTA survey also showed the proportion of teachers leaving to non-teaching jobs has been increasing in recent years.

“As teachers’ salaries have been growing at a rate slower than inflation and significantly slower than many other professions, it’s understandable that other career options look more attractive,” Roberts said.

“Secondary teachers often have qualifications and skills that are readily transferable to other areas of the workforce. It’s a real shame to be losing teachers from the profession in these crucial subjects.”

Secondary schools also report a growing trend of employing teachers in areas other than their specialist subject, and one in nine schools surveyed had to cancel classes or use distance learning to deliver a subject because a suitable teacher could not be found.

“Students at secondary schools need to be able to access specialist teachers in a wide range of subjects to enable them to prepare for life as confident, capable and productive citizens,” Roberts said. “Ensuring that teaching is an attractive career and that we recruit and retain teachers in all areas, should be a number one priority for the government,” she said.

Why were over 2000 teachers sacked?

you're firedIn Chicago this week, 2100 teachers were laid off.  Given notice.  No more work.

See ya.

4% of Chicago’s teachers sent packing just like that.

Why?  Budget cuts, they said.  They can’t afford to pay the teachers.


Swap experience out for cheap labour

At the same time as this happened, Chicago’s Board of Education voted to increase its payment to Teach For America (TFA) from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new TFA recruits…

So let’s get this right.  They lay off over 2000 qualified teachers and aim to replace them with guys who had 6 weeks’ training and then are sent into the classroom full time.  These ‘teachers’ commit only to 1 or 2 years in the classroom and almost universally leave the classroom after that and go on to more highly paid work.  Indeed TFA promotes itself as a stepping stone to other, far grander careers.

Nice to know they respect the job of teaching so much.

Lifelong teachers, people committed to honing and improving their teaching skills mean nothing to reformers like this.  The kids mean nothing, either.  Teaching is simply a way for new grads to improve their CVs and for reformers to make $$$$$.

How does the impact Aotearoa New Zealand?

Kiwis beware – we have Teach First NZ, a similar programme.

England also has it.

New grads get a 6 week programme and then are sent into schools to start work.  And note they are only sent into low decile schools, not into schools where children of those promoting the programme are studying.  Funny that.

The argument that TFA, TFNZ and other incarnations worldwide are needed to fill gaps where there are not enough teachers doesn’t wash.  In NZ we have trained teachers searching for non-existent jobs.  In Chicago and elsewhere they are laying of veteran teachers to take on TFAers.

It’s not about filling a gap.  It’s about undermining teaching as a profession and crippling the unions so there is no collective voice.

A long and winding but well-planned path…

Kiwi education is similarly at the hands of those determined to undermine our schools and teachers at every turn.

It’s only a matter of time until this is happening here, too.  Indeed we are on track already.

Kiwis need to be aware that this  is the goal of reforms that start slowly and creep, creep, creep until before you know it the unions are smashed, teachers are being laid off and replaced with short-term, expendable staff, and the reformers move in with their testing and money-making and our children have ceased to be students but have become a commodity.

It sounds dramatic, even fanciful, but if you spend even an hour looking at what is happening in the USA and England, you will see, this is a well trodden and well-planned path.

We must be committed to stopping it in its tracks before it’s too late.


Further reading: (read the comments below, too)

And the students are not always impressed, either…

SOSNZ Education news round-up

As ever, it’s been a busy week as in the wonderful world of education.

catherine isaacNZ Charter Schools featured heavily (and were most definitely charters and not partnership schools, which rather implies Hekia’s tanty last week had little impact.

It was announced that Catherine Isaac is as to be in charge of  deciding who will be allowed to set up charter schools, which drew plenty of gasps and criticism as she had also been chair of the charter schools working group.  Most of us weren’t surprised at all.


exams 2US Charter Schools were also in the news thanks to the latest CREDO report.  My favourite part was where the Herald and others trumpeted that charters were doing better than public schools.  What it actually said was that cahrter school students were about the same level in maths and on average eight days ahead in reading.   Oh I did laugh.  Eight. Days.  So, about the same then.

“I don’t think eight days is a whole lot,” said CREDO research manager Devora Davis of the charter school students’ reading edge. “There’s a lot of variation across the states. It’s a national average.”

Twenty years down the line and the best that magical charter schools can manage is that they are achieving about the same as public schools.  Hardly good value for money given the cost.


graduation hatToo many teachers – Also in the news was the fact that there are too many teachers applying for too few jobs, with up to 100 applicants per job in some areas.

Are too many teachers being trained for the jobs available?  It certainly seems that way.  Maybe the powers that be are expecting a lot of resignations…

Also to consider is the impact of over-supply on teachers with more experience?   And will many of the new graduates end up working abroad, or even leaving the profession before they begin?  So much for the teacher shortage we were warned of not long ago…


no moneyFunding for special needs students is still a hot topic, particularly with parents of special needs children.  The news that decile ten private schools were far more likely to apply for and receive funding to help special needs students take exams hit many a raw nerve.

No-one would wish to deny high decile students the help they need, but it does lead to questions about the system when so many lower decile school students that apply for help don’t get it and – equally disconcerting – a huge proportion of low decile schools don’t even apply for the help.


What else? National Standards, PaCT, Badass Teachers, and Christchurch schools have also loomed large this week, but I think that’s enough reading for anyone, so I shall leave it there.

Happy reading, happy thinking.


Education – Taking A New Path

This is the second part of my report on Pasi Sahlberg’s Bayfield School talk, 5/10/12.  Part 1 is here.


Sahlberg is emphatic that all students must have the same chance at receiving a good education at all levels and that in order to improve education you must improve equity.

What does he mean by equity in education?

‘Equity in education is the strength of relationship between a pupil’s family background and the education they receive.’  

Rich, poor, immigrant, first generation, native, whatever – all should receive the same quality teaching and the same opportunities.  It’s a lofty ambition, but not impossible by any means.

Performance Pay / Collaboration

Teachers work collaboratively within schools and school-to-school.  Schools share ideas and resources with each other.  There is no performance pay – Sahlberg says it does not work, and it would not be accepted by teachers or management there as they value working collaboratively and see that as key to providing a good and fair education for all.  It’s no different to what teachers here are saying – we value cooperation and collaboration above the chance of an extra dollar.


Here Sahlberg offered a warning:

‘Accountability is what’s left when responsibility is taken away.’ 

He stressed that accountability should be trust based, with schools self-monitoring, and monitoring each other, with minimal external monitoring from government or external agencies, and emphasised that, ideally, you should be reviewing your practices and performance with other schools, locally.  When asked what he thought had led to the level of trust teachers enjoy in Finland, he said

‘I think it’s to do with how teachers are viewed and treated by government and Fins.  There is trust.

Ministers do not tell teachers how to teach.’

Teacher Training

Finnish teachers must get an undergraduate  degree and Masters degree before they do their teacher training.  There is no other path.  No one-year course, no 6-week fast-tracking, not even a three-year course.   There is a better chance of getting into medical or law courses than teacher training.   After 30 years of this system, now just about all Finnish teachers have been trained this way.  As a result, teachers are seen as well-trained and well-educated, and they are held in esteem.  There are no teacher shortages.  I know I’d be more than happy to do a Masters and upgrade my skills and knowledge.  I see that as a win:win situation.

High Five

Parental Choice

The idea of different types of school and of private fee-paying schools is not one that Finland supports.  Sahlberg explains that offering choices in education weakens the whole system and weakens communities by causing unnecessary competition.  He argues that schools must be connected to their communities and to each other for success.  In Finland, parents can choose any school for their children, yet they almost always choose the local school because there is an understanding that the level of care and education will be the same at all schools even if the topics/areas covered differ.  Rather than pitting school against school, cooperation, equality and fairness are again the focus.

In other words, teachers want to do their best for their students, and people trust teachers and schools to be doing just that.

Fewer regulations.  Less monitoring.  More trust.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Read the rest:  Part 1 is here.

OECD Report ‘Education at a Glance’

An OECD report released today puts New Zealand at the top of the list of countries for the percentage of its public spending spent on education.   According to the report, NZ spends 21.2 per cent of its public spending to education, whereas the OECD average was just 13%.

New Zealand was reported as spending 7.2 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education, fifth behind Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway.

The report starts by saying that “Governments should increase investment in early childhood programmes and maintain reasonable costs for higher education in order to reduce inequality, boost social mobility and improve people’s employment prospects”.  Interestingly, the USA is one of four countries where more than 40% of young people from low educational backgrounds have not completed upper secondary education, and less than 20% have attained tertiary qualifications.  It does beg the question why we are following in their footsteps with Charter Schools and increased national testing, given their very poor performance.

It further states that “[e]]nrolling children early in formal education and keeping schools mixed in terms of social backgrounds have more impact in boosting educational equality than other factors, such as parental support or the cost of tuition fees. Addressing inequality early is key as little can be done to remedy poor outcomes later in school, without compromising the quality of higher education.”

And the importance of early childhood education is underlined again later in the report, “Starting school at an early age pays off in the long run: OECD’s PISA tests of 15-year-olds show that, in most countries, pupils who have attended pre-primary education tend to perform better than those who have not. It also shows that longer pre-primary education, smaller pupil-to-teacher ratios and higher public expenditure per child all enhance the positive effects of pre-primary schooling.”

Some Key Findings

  • Young women are five percentage points more likely than young men to become better educated than their parents (40% compared with 35%), while young men are more likely than young women to have lower educational attainment than their parents (15% compared with 11%).
  • The educational attainment of mothers has a stronger impact on students’ reading performance than the primary language at home or the proportion of immigrant students in a school.
  • 58% of primary teachers are at least 40 years old on average in OECD countries. The proportion exceeds 70% in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Sweden. At secondary level, 63% of teachers are at least 40, and 70% or more in Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany and Italy.
  • On average, OECD countries spend USD 9 252 annually per student from primary through tertiary education: USD 7 719 per primary student, USD 9 312 per secondary student and USD 13 728 per tertiary student.

Read the press release and report here:


OECD (2012), Education at a Glance 2012: Highlights, OECD Publishing.

Teacher Shortage Looming, says NZEI

Political footballs run for the hills

NZEI published this press release today, warning of an up-coming teacher shortage and questioning how Government will tackle this.

Given the recent spate of attacks Government has made on teachers, it’s no wonder people think twice before joining the profession, and even less of a mystery that people lose the will to carry on and leave in droves.  How very sad to lose so many wonderful teachers because they feel undervalued, bullied and constantly used as political footballs, always playing catch up with the latest mad-cap untested, unproven and often just plain daft initiative.

Instead of looking to the USA and UK, where education has nothing fabulous to offer us, maybe Government could take a long hard look at Norway.

Wouldn’t it be fabulous to see teaching valued and respected by those in power, well resourced, well paid, and with plenty of quality professional development – that’d be a great start to promoting the job to the next generation of high fliers.

NZEI Press release: Looming teacher shortage – wake up call for Government

The Government needs to work with the education sector to resolve the looming teacher shortage, says NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter.Mr Goulter says it’s important that the Government makes a commitment to keep the best teachers in front of students rather than going down the path of increased class sizes and allowing unqualified people to act as teachers in charter schools.”Increased class sizes may have been put on hold earlier this year due to reaction from parents. But that doesn’t mean the Government has walked away from that policy, and it could still re-emerge as its preferred answer to any teacher shortage.”

“Instead, it is important that the Government commits to tackling the teacher shortage by good planning and maintaining good quality teaching and learning. That means keeping the best teachers in the classrooms.”

Projections show that school rolls will continue to increase steadily for the next seven years and this will be exacerbated by a large cohort of teachers reaching retirement age.

“Allowing unqualified people to act as teachers in charter schools is clearly another attempt to deal with the teacher shortage. But that will simply reduce both the quality of teaching and the number of qualified teachers in front of students.”

He says the early childhood sector is another area where the Government has shown short sightedness.

“Once again, the emphasis should be on ensuring good quality teaching instead of reducing the ratio of qualified teachers in our early childhood centres.”

Mr Goulter says the Government’s policy of attacking teachers and the politicisation of the sector has been a big turnoff for many student teachers.

“Instead of attacking teachers for political purposes, the Government should show leadership and work with the sector to attract good students into teaching.”
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