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Beginning Teachers Need Support and Opportunity

29th January 2008

For Immediate Release

Beginning Teachers Need Support and Opportunity

NZEI Te Riu Roa, the union representing 27,000 primary and intermediate school teachers, says beginning teachers are a great resource who generally bring enthusiasm and new skills into schools. It says questions over their quality will only serve to undermine their future and the future of the teaching profession.

A December survey of 79 primary and intermediate school principals in the Auckland region published yesterday said that at the time of the survey, all were struggling with staffing and the majority of applicants for vacant positions were "poor" or "very poor". Almost half of those applying were beginning teachers.

NZEI President Frances Nelson says the problem is not necessarily with the quality of new teachers, but the lack of experienced teachers. When a school has a high ratio of beginning teachers already, the fact that they make up most of the recruitment pool is a problem.

"Beginning teachers require extra support and mentoring from experienced teachers to see them through the first two years to full registration," she says. "This means additional pressure on school leaders, some of whom would prefer to hire experienced teachers."

"On the other hand beginning teachers have a lot to offer children, schools and communities, and more emphasis needs to be put on what they give rather than what they take. In the majority of cases, schools are doing a good job of supporting new teachers professionally, and parents can have confidence that their children's learning needs are being met."

NZEI believes the country has already invested a great deal in its new teaching graduates, but only 60 percent currently get jobs within the first year of graduation. Of those who do find employment, many go to fixed-term positions of less than a year.

NZEI has argued for schemes that would ensure more new teachers get permanent jobs so that schools invested in supporting them professionally and the teachers got the continuity of experience needed to gain registration. It says closer links between the providers of teacher education programmes and schools would reassure employers about the quality of the teacher training beginning teachers had received.

NZEI says that investment in the form of proper support, training and mentoring on the job is also required. Late last year the union reached a pay agreement for primary teachers, which includes extra financial payments for teachers taking on extra responsibilities.

"This settlement should help keep experienced teachers taking on leadership roles such as mentoring new teachers in the profession," Frances Nelson says. "The challenge we face is to ensure more teachers stay in teaching, so that the pool of experienced teachers continues to grow."


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