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Speech: Improving the number and quality of our teachers

Hon Nikki Kaye
Minister of Education

17 May 2017

Pre-Budget speech on new measures to increase the number and quality of our teachers

Delivered to executive members of the Auckland Secondary Principals Association and Auckland Primary Principals Association - not delivered word for word

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to meet with me. It has been a busy first three weeks, but getting out to schools and meeting principals like yourselves is so important to me.

The focus of my discussion with you today is on teacher supply and quality. This is an area that I know is of concern to you which is why I wanted to come here to speak to you today.

Firstly I’d like to talk briefly about my priorities as Education Minister. I’m going to be working on a number of areas over the coming months, both building on the work of the previous Minister as well as covering some new ground. I done want to mark the hard work and dedication of the previous Minister, Hekia Parata, who did so much to improve education at a system level. Having done that work, creating new frameworks such as Communities of Learning I now have the luxury of taking a broader view, to focus on what’s needed for the future.

Like you, I have high ambitions for our young people. I want every child progressing through our education system to be able to read, write, do maths, be digitally fluent, healthy and well rounded. I’m really concerned that in just a couple of decades a number of jobs that exist now simply won’t be there anymore. Young New Zealanders need to be prepared for a modern, digitally rich economy. Education is the pathway to their future success, and the experiences they have in the classroom will not only shape them but have lasting impacts.

In order to raise achievement it is crucial that we continue to improve the quality of teachers. The replacement of the Teachers Council with the Education Council has been an important step towards enabling the profession to raise standards in teaching. The Government has provided financial support to get the organisation up and running.

The Council is an independent statutory body mandated to lift the status of the teaching profession. They are focused on good teaching practice and helping to raise the status and image of the teaching profession. They have recently consulted on a new professional code which covers expectations of ethical behaviour and standards of professional practice for the teaching profession. They have also signalled that they have been reviewing the qualifications required for teachers to be able to practice. These are important pieces of work and I look forward to being briefed further by the council in the coming months on this work.

As teachers and principals, you have a huge responsibility to each and every child that comes through your school. Your passion and drive can inspire a life-long love of a subject, it can change the course of children’s lives and bring hope and aspiration to students struggling through difficult times.

We are fortunate in New Zealand to have a dedicated and committed workforce in our schools, who are quite rightly valued and respected. The overall number of teachers in New Zealand is over 100,000 across our schooling and early childhood education and I am advised that this is a reasonable number to support our education system.

But we are aware that there are subjects and locations around the country, particularly here in Auckland, where at the moment it can be difficult to recruit. We also want all of our teachers to be the very best they can be – to lift their game each and every day and be constantly seeking to improve their knowledge and practice.

Let me focus first of all on those priority subjects – the sciences, maths, technology and te reo Maori. I want you to know that I have heard you when you have spoken about what it’s like recruiting quality teachers in these subjects, particularly in Auckland. Whilst overall the vacancy rates are low and we’re not experiencing the shortages that were reached in 2009, we are aware that you have been finding it difficult.

I’m also aware of the need to talk about maintaining and lifting the quality of teaching and leadership alongside any discussion about supply. This Government is committed to progressively strengthening the teaching profession and building and maintaining a high-quality teacher workforce that benefits every child and young person.

There is no one answer to increasing the number of teachers or strengthening the profession which is why I’m pleased to tell you today about a range of initiatives that we’re putting in place. These build on the $9 million package announced by the previous Education Minister last year that was designed to help address teacher supply pressures and build and maintain a quality teacher workforce.

Firstly in the upcoming budget we will commit $5.2 million over the next four years to expand the innovative employment-based initial teacher education (ITE) programme provided by Teach First NZ to a further 90 participants.

We’re also committing $2 million of operating funding over the next two years towards further induction and mentoring for provisionally-certificated teachers in priority areas to gain full certification.

And from the beginning of next year we will lift the moratorium on new study programmes for teacher qualifications which has been in place since 2000.

Let me give you some more detail on each of those, starting with Teach First NZ.

I’m sure you are all familiar with this programme which places trainee teachers in schools while they complete their qualifications. The focus has been on recruiting high quality graduates in subjects where we need more teachers, so the sciences, maths and technology. The programme also places trainee teachers in schools with the highest needs to help ease pressures on teacher supply.

To date, 42 percent of Teach First NZ graduates teach maths, chemistry, physics or science, and all of them teach in schools with high proportions of Maori and Pasifika students, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The extra $5.2 million funding which I’ve announced today will provide two further cohorts of 45 prospective teachers each, starting in 2018. So that’s 90 extra teachers. The emphasis will be on STM subjects, and graduates will be trained to teach in schools with a high proportion of Māori and Pasifika students, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Staying with the theme of attracting more people into teaching, I’ve also announced today that from the 1st of January next year we are lifting the moratorium on new programmes of initial teacher education which has been in place since 2000. The freeze was brought in by the Government to gain some control over the quality and quantity of programmes being established.

Over the years a number of quality assurance measures have been put in place, including the establishment of the Education Council. The Education Council intends to implement a number of quality improvements, which means there will no longer be a need for the moratorium.

Lifting the moratorium will make it easier for ITE providers to adjust their programmes.

So that’s about attracting new high calibre candidates in to teaching. But what about at the other end of the scale? How can we support more people to stay in teaching, particularly at a time where our economy is doing well and other career options are available?

Today I’ve announced that we are allocating $2 million over two years to enable teachers whose provisional certification will, or has recently, expired to participate in a new induction and mentoring scheme. This will help them to meet the Education Council’s requirements of full certification, allowing them to continue to teach.

Induction and mentoring is available to all teachers when they first gain their provisional certificate. However, we know that some teachers can miss out of this initial support because of the way they are employed.

By providing further support to teachers whose provisional certificate is nearing expiry we hope to encourage more of them to stay on in the profession and gain their full certificate. Many of these will be relieving and part-time staff who are an essential part of the education workforce.

The advantage of focusing on these staff are they already have experience and are known to many schools. We think this maximises the chances of getting more quality teachers with full registration.

I also know that for those of you in Communities of Learning appointing teachers to Community of Learning roles sometimes use additional staff to temporarily support those roles when providing release time.

Around 6,450 teachers hold provisional practicing certificates and around 800 of these will expire over the next two years. We expect up to 700 of these teachers will be eligible to get support through this scheme to gain full certification.

Priority for this mentoring programme will be given to teachers of the sciences, technology and mathematics (STM), te reo, in schools and ECEs in rural areas and Auckland.

Experienced teachers who have full certification will act as the mentors. Where schools are working together, possibly through a Community of Learning | Kahui Ako one mentor may work with more than one provisionally certificated teacher. I know that you and your colleagues will identify the best solution for your individual schools in consultation with the Education Council.

I can also confirm today that the Education Council will be going out to tender for the provision of Teacher Education Refresher courses.

The tender will aim to both improve the quality of these courses while also reducing the costs which I understand may be prohibitive for some teachers wishing to get full certification.

So that’s the range of initiatives we are adding to the $9 Million Teacher Supply Package that was announced last year. To give you an update on how that work is going:

A UK recruitment campaign has identified almost 500 UK teachers who are interested in moving to New Zealand to take up positions in the next 12-18 months. Some have already arrived and are now in schools.

The 100 extra TeachNZ scholarships for graduates in the sciences technology and maths (STM) to qualify as teachers have already been filled this year with a good number and range of applicants. These new teachers will be available to start working in schools from the beginning of 2018

Thirty Teach First NZ teachers started in Auckland secondary schools at the start of this school year, and 18 of these are STM teachers.

A social media campaign promoting teaching to STM graduates was launched in September 2016. The campaign has attracted around 176,000 visits, resulting in 1038 queries to ITE providers about the programmes of study available.

The ‘Bring a Kiwi Home’ campaign, aimed at encouraging New Zealand teachers working overseas to return home to teach, was launched in mid-December. While it is too early to measure its success, the videos associated with the campaign have had 14,310 views to date.

On top of all this we are also working with the Tertiary Education Commission to influence the intake of students enrolling in initial teacher education so that they are a better match to school needs, working with the Education Council to smooth the path for overseas teachers coming to work in New Zealand.

Here in Auckland we also have a joint project with the Auckland Primary Principals Association running to increase the number of beginning teachers employed in positions that will take them through to fill certification. 39 schools are involved in this two-year project focussed on helping beginning teachers to gain the skills they need to teach junior classes – an area where some Auckland schools were having recruitment difficulties. I hope that for those of you taking part in this initiative that it is having a positive impact.

So I hope that you can see that our Government is committed to supporting you to have more teachers in areas where you may be finding it difficult to recruit. We know the attrition rate - that is, those people choosing to leave the profession - has dropped, which is positive. However, we need to continue to deliver to geographical areas or subject areas where there is a need. This requires us to be responsive alongside the Education Council and consider new initiatives where appropriate. The need may change over time and will be diverse, from the suburbs of Auckland to provincial areas like Nelson.

By focussing on supporting more provisionally registered teachers to move to full registration and attracting more high quality graduates into the profession we’re looking at multiple ways to increase the number of available teachers. We will be giving priority to areas where there may be fewer teachers. The Teach First NZ investment of $5.2 million for 90 teachers will help boost graduates in maths, chemistry, physics and science. It will also enable us to better support schools with high proportions of Maori and Pasifika students, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Of course I know that you would like us to continue to do more. I plan to keep listening and to work in partnership with the Education Council, the unions, other stakeholders and you - school leaders - to continue to support the profession on issues of supply.

I want to end by thanking each of you for the work you do, for the passion that you bring to your profession and the commitment you have to inspiring our young people to not only succeed but to thrive. We want all young New Zealanders to have access to excellent teachers and have choices to study across a broad range of subjects. Today's announcement is about supporting our education leaders to help deliver this.


ends

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