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A pharmacist, a pilot and a professional rugby player – all retraining as teachers under new model of immersive education

Auckland, 16 August 2021 – A new model of teacher education currently in place at several Auckland secondary schools is set to address the country’s critical teacher shortage with its unique focus on immersive and innovative learning in key subject areas.

The Auckland Schools’ Teacher Training Programme for the one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching was developed jointly by a group of 12 Auckland secondary schools and the University of Waikato last year, with the first cohort of 24 trainees based in the group’s range of co-ed, single sex, public and independent schools this year.

A novel approach to teacher training

Unlike the current University-based teacher training diploma, trainees studying under the immersive programme learn on the job. They initially shadow a teacher and observe their classes while being involved behind the scenes with lesson planning and conversations about effective pedagogy.

Course content is delivered online by the University of Waikato, while mentoring, professional development and placement opportunities are provided by the participating schools who also cover the trainees’ fees.

The programme stemmed from a desire to attract high quality individuals into the teaching profession and address shortages in key subject areas, while supporting them through their training and ultimately retaining them at their allocated school.

Career changers make up more than half the cohort

More than 50% of the inaugural cohort previously worked in other roles and sectors, with trainees ranging in age from mid-20s to over 50 years, and previous careers including a radio announcer, a rugby player and an international marketer. The 2021 intake also includes a set of cousins – Louise Fisher, who was previously a pharmacist and is now training at St Cuthbert’s College, and Andrew Bason, a former airline pilot, now training at Macleans College in Buckland’s Beach.

David Ferguson, headmaster of Westlake Boys’ High School, and spokesperson for the participating schools said, "The new programme offers a pathway for people who have always considered teaching as a career possibility but weren’t sure how they could make the move.

"We're really interested in people who have worked in other jobs and are looking to change careers, as well as graduates from a wide range of disciplines," he said. “We feel that the life experiences and professional backgrounds of our candidates gives an added perspective to their teaching, as well as enriching the lives of the students they teach.”

Focus on key subject areas helping address New Zealand’s teacher shortage

With its focus on attracting candidates who are trained in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, General Science, Economics and Te Reo, the programme is helping address the country’s teacher shortage in these key subject areas.

Feedback from the trainees, along with teaching staff at the participating schools, had been extremely positive, with many praising the cross-school innovation and collaboration to help address issues in the teacher training field.

Research shows that 92% of the trainees strongly agree that placement in the school for a whole year has prepared them well for a teaching career.

Increased retention rates one of the programme’s goals

Heather McRae, Principal at Diocesan School, which currently has two trainee teachers, said there were significant benefits from the programme for both trainees and the school.

“The reality of arriving in a school, once you’ve completed your 12-week practicums, can be overwhelming for many beginner teachers,” she said.

“The immersion model gives applicants the advantage of real-world experience as they learn on the job, working alongside outstanding teachers in their field and experiencing first-hand the pace of full time teaching and school life.”

She said that one of the aims of the programme is increased retention rates for teachers.

“In the long term, we hope that it will result in new teachers staying on at our school and in the profession much longer.”

Alex Woodall, who has a degree in Biomedical Engineering, is one of the trainee teachers at Diocesan School and is currently based in the maths department there. He previously worked as a research assistant in the musculoskeletal group at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, focusing on basketball players.

Alex is enjoying the transition into teaching, saying he enjoys the interaction with students and the ability to develop with the school as the year progresses.

“I feel as if I’m part of the school, rather than an outsider coming in for a restricted period of time,” he said.

Nine new schools have been included in the programme in 2022 (list is below).

Applications are currently open for the 2022 school year and can be made via the website here.

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