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Relief Teacher Shortage Forces Northland Schools To Double Up Classes And Sometimes Close, Survey Shows

Te Tai Tokerau Principals’ Association president Pat Newman is calling for the Government to take action after a survey found a lack of relievers in Northland has forced schools to combine classes, put untrained teachers in front of students, and sometimes close.

Newman, who is also principal of Hora Hora Primary School in Whangārei, says the reliever shortage has been an issue for a while now, but the survey highlights just how serious it is.

“The Government cannot keep on expecting blood from a stone. There are illnesses out there but not enough relievers to cover. This is impacting our staff, our teachers, and the students,” says Newman.

The survey by Te Tai Tokerau Principals’ Association was sent to principals in Northland.

Of the 71 who responded, 55 have used their management time to cover teachers, 59 have doubled-up classes, five have been forced to send kids home, and 33 have used untrained teachers to watch kids. Some principals also said they’ve had no choice but to close the school when they couldn’t find relievers.

Principals were also asked about the number of days they were forced to give up management time, double-up classes, and/or put untrained teachers in the classroom. When the individual responses were combined, the survey showed there was a total of 336 days where principals gave up management time, 332 days where classes were doubled-up, and 201 days where untrained teachers had to watch kids.

Newman says the effect of this is clear – principals and teachers are run into the ground.

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“Principals are working at night and during weekends because they’re using precious management time when they can’t find relievers, and there’s extra stress on teachers dealing with two classrooms,” he says.

“For the kids it’s worse again because they’re either doubled-up or being taught by untrained teachers – it’s basically babysitting.”

Newman says principals want the Government to re-implement schemes that have worked in the past, like allocation of cheap rentals to attract people to cities and offering financial incentives.

“We know these things work because they existed before. The seriousness of this issue is abundantly clear, and we need the Government to act now.”

Newman says if the Government ignore the situation, people will leave the profession.

“Principals are already leaving because they’ve had enough, and teachers are saying ‘if this is what being a principal is I don’t want,’ and who would?”

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