May 29th 2008
Survey Shows Teacher Shortage Crisis On Horizon
A new survey of teacher supply by the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa, shows clear signs that there may be a new teacher shortage crisis looming as rolls build through the year, and into the future.
The online survey of primary and intermediate school principals, a follow-up to one conducted by NZEI earlier this year, shows 93 percent of schools nationally and 87% in Auckland were fully staffed in early May.
This indicates that staffing levels for the year are already beginning to tighten. A similar NZEI survey in February showed 95 percent of schools were fully staffed, and Ministry of Education data, gathered at the start of the school year, put the figure at 99 percent.
NZEI President Frances Nelson says that schools are already noticing that teacher supply is very tight.
"As rolls build through the year and the need for relief teachers to cover sickness grows through the winter, the situation will only get worse. While we welcome the new lower ratios for five year olds, the introduction of 1:15 in Year 1 classes next year means schools have to start recruiting extra teachers during the latter part of the year. This will take time and resources."
481 principals responded to NZEI's latest survey, which focused on questions around staffing levels, recruitment, the balance between inexperienced and experienced teachers in their schools, and the lowering of teacher student ratios in junior classes.
In regard to the introduction of the 1:18 teacher/pupil ratio introduced into Year 1 classes at the beginning of this term, schools were asked whether they had already hired staff to meet the new ratio. Of the 336 principals who answered that question, 64% said they had, 15% said they planned to hire new staff, and 20% said they had no plans to do so.
They were also asked to rate the level of difficulty they'd had in terms of employing staff to meet the new ratios. Of the 373 who answered - 52% said they'd had no problem, while 48% said they'd had some difficulty - 8.8% describing it as "extremely difficult".
Principals who took part in the survey once again highlighted serious concern over the lack of experienced teachers. Many said they had worked hard to staff their schools but the majority of applicants in the recruitment pool were new graduates or provisionally registered teachers. This creates a disproportionate number of new teachers in a school and puts pressure on school leaders to provide the induction, mentoring and extra release time beginning teachers need.
Responses to the survey also underlined a serious shortage of relievers to provide for the professional development programmes in place in schools. Many principals say that finding these teachers is an ongoing challenge.
Frances Nelson says "this situation is not new. Primary schools need long term sustainable solutions to ensure that there is an effective long-term strategy to deal with the "baby boom" coming through in five years time."
The Ministry of Education has released its updated roll projections for the next five years. Its "medium projection" predicts primary school rolls will increase steadily from 2009 and peak in 2019 with 514,000 students expected to be attending primary schools that year. The high level of actual births in 2007 will start to impact on primary schools from 2012.
"This underlines the urgency of the situation. Serious planning strategies must be put in place now, including increasing teacher education programmes in areas of pressure," says Ms Nelson.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Northland - 20 responses - 100% staffed Auckland - 95 responses - 87.4% staffed Waikato (Urban) - 22 r esponses - 95.5% staffed Waikato (Rural) - 43 responses - 93% staffed Bay of Plenty (Rural) - 9 responses - 100% staffed Bay of Plenty (Urban) - 22 responses - 95.5% staffed Gisborne - 10 responses - 90.9% staffed Hawkes Bay (urban) - 10 responses - 100% staffed Hawkes Bay (rural) - 10 responses - 90% staffed Taranaki - 19 responses - 94.7% staffed Manawatu/Wanganui - 38 responses - 89.5% staffed
Wairarapa - 5 responses - 100% staffed Wellington (Urban) - 42 responses - 90.5% staffed Wellington (Rural) - 3 responses - 100% staffed
Nelson - 6 responses - 100% staffed Tasman - 7 responses - 100% staffed Marlborough - 5 responses - 100% staffed Canterbury (Urban) - 29 responses - 93.1% staffed Canterbury (Rural) - 22 responses - 90.9% staffed West Coast - 5 responses - 100% staffed Otago (Urban) - 15 responses - 100% staffed Otago (Rural) - 20 responses - 100% staffed West Coast - 5 responses - 100% staffed Southland - 19 responses - 100% staffed