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School Staffing Levels Healthy But Problems Ahead

Survey Shows School Staffing Levels Healthy But Flags Problems Ahead

A survey conducted by the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa shows 95 percent of primary and intermediate schools are fully staffed, but that teacher supply remains very tight.

Almost 500 principals from around the country responded to the online survey which provides a useful national and regional staffing snapshot. It was carried out due to widespread concern about the availability of teachers late last year, and evidence of a teacher shortage crisis. More pressure is also expected to go on teacher supply when the 1:18 classroom ratio policy is introduced in junior classes in Term 2.

The survey shows that while most schools are currently fully staffed, almost a third (29%) of principals said it had been moderately difficult to find and employ teachers for 2008. 38% said they’d had no problem, while 25% reported it had been moderately easy. Six percent described the level of difficulty they’d had as “severe”.

NZEI National President Frances Nelson says “it appears from this update on previous teacher supply concerns – in particular in the Auckland region in Term 4 of 2007 – that principals have moved swiftly to secure staffing for the start of the 2008 school year.”

The survey does point to serious concern over the shortage of experienced teachers, with some principals commenting that the pool of experienced staff is rapidly diminishing. A majority also said they would run into difficulty trying to replace any staff member who left during the year, and that finding relief teachers is an ongoing battle.

The lack of experienced teachers has meant many schools have to rely on filling positions with new and beginning staff. The survey indicates that 61% of schools which appointed provisionally registered teachers to positions this year feel very confident they can provide the induction programme required for these new teachers. “This indicates a recognition that the profession needs to provide for the shortfall in experienced teachers and will work to ensure that these new teachers are supported during their first two years to enable them to reach full registration,” says Frances Nelson.

NZEI says the survey does flag problems around the extra staffing needed in Term 2 when the 1:18 teacher pupil ratio comes into force for Year One classes, and should set off a few alarm bells for the government.

Ms Nelson says “our survey shows that 34% of schools have either not yet secured the staffing they need at the beginning of Term 2 or have no plans for this yet.”

“Whilst the survey indicates that teacher supply has not turned out to be the problem anticipated at the beginning of the school year, a tightening of supply is likely later in the year and we need to work hard to ensure that supply meets demand. The challenge we face is to ensure more teachers stay in teaching, so that the pool of experienced teachers continues to grow and the sector will be looking for an enduring solution to this issue to ensure that children have the best possible teacher in front of them at all times,” she says.


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