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Slow Police Vetting Increases Teacher Crisis In Early Childhood

Slow Police vetting of people who want to work in early childhood education is aggravating the worst shortage of early childhood teachers in a decade, says the head of New Zealand’s largest education recruiters.

Stuart Birch, the chief executive of ep.education, says the slow vetting process has made worse a teacher crisis that has already contributed to ECE centres closing their doors. He is calling for more resources and a better system of Police vetting.

“We have heard from our clients that the current backlog of teachers and others waiting on Police vetting results is around 35,000. These delays are untenable when the vetting for ECE teachers is required by law.”

Across the ECE sector, unregistered teachers are a significant part of the teaching workforce. Any person working as a teacher must be vetted by the Police every three years.

“We are in this crazy situation where we have ECE centres desperate for teachers and we have teachers wanting to start work immediately,” Mr Birch says. “But because vetting results are taking so many weeks to come through, ECE centres are under impossible pressure because teachers can’t be sent out to work.”

ep.education, which works with large and small ECE centres across the country, is often waiting weeks for Police checks with the oldest case dating back to 14 April 2021. In some instances, by the time the results are returned, the teacher concerned has got sick of waiting and obtained work outside the sector.

“This problem is being talked about right across the ECE sector. Frustration and despair are growing as centres struggle to get the teachers needed to meet government staffing requirements,” Mr Birch says.

Under the current system every employer must do their own checks. He says that some ECE teachers are being vetted multiple times, an incredible waste of Police resource that puts impossible pressure on the vetting system.

“The obvious long-term solution is to complete Police vetting once for each teacher, then give employers access to that information,” Mr Birch says. A similar system works effectively in UK education, allowing portability of Police vetting between one employer and another, with any updates or changes completed online.

“The current situation cannot continue but a new system will take some time to put in place. It is critical that the Police vetting team are immediately given the resources needed to clear this backlog and help ensure early childhood centres can be staffed in a way that is safe for children.”

 

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