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Government Needs To Address Secondary Teacher Shortage Urgently

The Government needs to go where successive governments have failed – and solve the secondary teacher shortage crisis in Aotearoa New Zealand, says Chris Abercrombie, PPTA Te Wehengarua acting president.

“The worsening shortage of secondary teachers shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. What is shocking is the failure of successive governments to do something meaningful and effective about it. We are really hoping this government will take a different approach and grasp the nettle. Every young person in Aotearoa New Zealand
deserves a specialist teacher in every subject to enable them to acquire the knowledge and skills they need.”

Chris Abercrombie said it was good to see the Ministry of Education, in a teacher supply report released today, acknowledging that unless overall teacher numbers are increased, initiatives designed to spread them are relatively unhelpful. “Acknowledging that we are beyond the bandaids is an important step in making real headway in addressing our national shortage, and through that taking pressure off our rural and hard to staff schools around the country, and giving all schools the opportunity to select suitably trained and qualified candidates in all subject areas.

“We also hope the Ministry will be more proactive in measuring and managing recruitment need by subject. There is no indication in the Ministry’s report of how many teachers are needed by subject, how many are currently available and how many are projected to be available going forward.

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 A surplus composed of, for example, Physical Education teachers, does not meet the needs of schools and students and can lead to long term problems when schools are pressed to appoint teachers to positions that their subject qualifications are not suited to.

“Secondary teaching is an amazing job. However, relative wages for secondary teachers continue to fall and employment has remained relatively strong.

Workload pressures and ongoing disruption remain disincentives for many teachers. These combine to make secondary teaching less attractive to many potential teachers and to teachers reconsidering their careers.

“The Government must ensure that our Initial Teacher Education centres are full of well qualified and highly inspired new graduates across the subject areas we need, and in numbers that allow schools to have a genuine choice of applicants across all subject areas There needs to be a fundamental shift in how the government approaches salaries and conditions and supports for teaching and learning and staffing levels in secondary and composite schools.”

Chris Abercrombie said he hoped that the Government would give serious consideration to the recommendations of the 2023 Arbitration Panel and to the findings of the 2021 Secondary Principals Council secondary school staffing report in this regard.

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