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Head in sand attitude over teacher shortages

Media Release
24 June 2008

Ministry has head in sand over secondary teacher shortages – PPTA

Today’s secondary schools face an aging workforce, a lack of qualified job applicants and a growing resignation rate - some have even been forced to cancel courses because of lack of teachers.

Yet the Ministry claims schools are “coping well” in a tight labour market.

A 2008 secondary PPTA staffing survey challenges claims made by Education Minister Chris Carter last month that predicted teacher shortages have not eventuated.

Given the latest disturbing figures, PPTA president Robin Duff believes the Ministry has its head in the sand while secondary staffing reaches crisis level.

Figures from the PPTA survey show 22 % of schools that responded had advertised vacancies they were unable to fill, 20% of schools had vacancies temporarily filled by untrained and unqualified relievers and 3% had vacancies permanently filled by untrained and unqualified appointees.

This paints a more realistic picture of the issues faced by the secondary sector, Mr Duff says.

He believes that the Ministry claim that 99% of teaching positions are filled is misleading. Primary and secondary school data was merged to reach that figure and it did not reflect how appropriately positions were filled.
“The Ministry needs to stop merging the figures to hide the problems with secondary staffing,” he said.

The survey also included a number of comments from school principals such as:

“A real shortage of graphics and hard materials tech teachers is a major concern. For the first time ever we have not been able to run senior classes in these subjects.”

“Staffing in secondary schools appears to be at crisis level. Research continually proves that one of the most important components of academic success is having competent and knowledgeable teachers in the class room. Sadly these teachers are in short supply.”

“Overall, recruitment is harder. It is becoming a less attractive job for quality young people and it is more difficult to get existing staff to take on extra responsibilities.”
Mr Duff hopes that the results of this latest survey will serve as a wakeup call to the Ministry and highlight the need for greater support for secondary school staffing.

“Given the time needed to make a measurable impact on the situation, I am not crying when I say that if something is not done soon to improve recruitment and retention of qualified secondary teachers, the secondary sector will be facing a staffing crisis of such magnitude that not even the Minister will be able to continue to deny it.”

Issues revealed by the survey include:

- Three-quarters of jobs advertised had no choice of candidate, either because there was no, or only one, applicant.
- For 44% of classroom positions there were no suitable New Zealand-trained candidates.
- 28% of schools surveyed were forced to use teachers outside their subject area because they were unable to get trained and qualified subject specialists

- 16% of schools had to transfer or cancel courses because of a lack of qualified staff
- As the pool of applicants remains shallow there are continuing concerns from principals over the quality of appointments schools are being forced to make and future impacts of an aging teaching force
- Resignation rates per school are higher than the previous year
- Technology continues to be in crisis nationally but maths, English, sciences and Te Reo are also causing major problems
- There are serious difficulties getting experienced staff into rural schools.

The PPTA staffing report is the result of a survey sent out to principals in term one this year. It is based on the replies received from 184 schools (44% of the schools that received the survey). The survey seeks information on positions advertised in the first three Education Gazettes of the school year (February- March).

ENDS

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