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Think tank lauds new teacher career structure

Wellington (23 January) – The New Zealand Initiative has welcomed the introduction of a four new tiers of teaching positions as a huge step toward lifting the educational performance of New Zealand’s schools.

The think tank has long been a strong advocate for such a policy, which was announced by Prime Minister John Key today as part of his State of the Nation address. The policy will see over 6,000 of the best teachers promoted to positions where they will be tasked with turning around poor performance in schools.

“Schools have long been encouraged to lift the performance of their own students but there has been little incentive for them to share their practice with other schools,” said Research Fellow Rose Patterson. “This results in the bizarre outcome where our top performing students rank among the best in the world, but at the other end of the scale we see too many young people leave school without the basic skills needed in the modern workplace.”

The policy offers good teachers within the system a career track and salary pathway that has not been available till now, which means that many skilled professional leave the profession, and many who stay stagnate once they reach the top of the salary scale.

“This tackles some of the problems we identified in our previous report, and have been discussing with stakeholders in the sector,” Patterson said. “This new initiative should invigorate the profession. It will encourage the best teachers to stay in the classroom, to share their practice with other teachers, and improve the quality of teaching overall.”

However, she noted that more could be done still to restore New Zealand’s status as a world-class education system.

“We need to transform the teaching profession into high-status career if we want to attract the best and brightest talent into teaching in the long-term,” Patterson said. “Better pay and an improved career path are a good start, but we also need to change the way we attract and train would-be teachers.”

The Initiative’s research into top performing education jurisdictions showed countries like Singapore and Finland placed a strong emphasis on higher tertiary qualifications for teachers as well as ensuring more practical time is spent in classrooms as part of their training.

The Initiative published two reports on teacher quality last year. The first identified problems with attracting and retaining the best teachers in New Zealand’s system. The second report examined how other leading jurisdictions such as Singapore, Finland, England, Germany, Ontario and Australia are tackling similar problems through policy reform.

The third report, which presents a series of policy recommendations for strengthening the teaching profession, is due in early March.

ENDS

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