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Sorting The Secondary Teacher Shortage Should Be Government’s Top Priority

The Government can have all the education priorities in the world but they will be meaningless if schools don’t have enough teachers in the first place, says Chris Abercrombie, PPTA Te Wehengarua president.

“We need, and look forward to receiving soon, details of the six education priorities announced by the Minister today. However, any secondary school principal will tell you that the

glaring problem that needs to be resolved urgently is ensuring there are enough specialist subject teachers. Without them, the whole secondary education system is in serious trouble.”

A new staffing survey report, carried out by PPTA Te Wehengarua in March, found the numbers of secondary teachers teaching subjects outside their specialist areas is at record highs.

“This means that more and more young people risk missing out on the deep grounding in subjects that they should be getting,” says Chris Abercrombie.

The survey, carried out in March 2024, found that 56% of schools had teachers working in non-specialist areas because they could not find suitably qualified staff. This is the highest number on record since the survey began in 1996.

“Students need teachers who know their subject area inside out, are passionate about it and can stretch students’ knowledge and skills.

“We need to get these foundations right before focusing on other priorities.”

Chris Abercrombie said he was also concerned that the clinical nature of the priorities announced today risked losing sight of the heart of education: the ākonga (students). “You can have all the monitoring, assessments,

science-based models and systems in the world but unless you have the ākonga at the centre of all you do, these ‘priorities’ will count for nothing.

“No student is the same, and no student learns the same – an education system that fails to acknowledge that will lose the students very quickly.”

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