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Secondary Teacher Shortage Shortchanges Young People – And Aotearoa

The numbers of secondary teachers teaching subjects outside their specialist areas is at record highs, according to an annual staffing survey (attached) carried out by PPTA Te Wehengarua.

“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, PPTA Te Wehengarua president.

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.

“It’s not fair on teachers either; they are specialists who have studied their particular subject to university graduate level – often beyond – and have an amazing knowledge of the subject. It’s far more rewarding teaching from a wealth of knowledge and experience, rather than simply trying to keep one step ahead of your students.”

Chris Abercrombie said it was clear from the survey results and accompanying principals’ comments, that the secondary teacher shortage is growing not just across a small number of subject areas but across all.

“The shortage is affecting schools in big cities just as much as in the traditionally harder to staff rural areas. The number of New Zealand-trained teachers applying for classroom teaching jobs has never been lower.

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“Schools and teachers are working extremely hard to ensure the quality of education for young people is up to a great standard – but unless the issues are addressed urgently, we have serious fears for the education of the next generation of young New Zealanders.

“Fast tracking residency for overseas teachers is a bandage, not a solution. We need a constant and abundant supply of New Zealand trained and qualified secondary teachers. If Prime Minister Luxon wants an end to his apparently sleepless nights worrying about education, his government needs to solve this shortage by making secondary teaching a first choice career.

“Secondary teaching is amazing and hugely satisfying. It needs to be resourced properly with salaries and conditions that attract young people to become teachers, keep highly skilled and experienced teachers in the profession, and that encourage the thousands who have left teaching to return.”

The survey was responded to by 125 secondary and area school principals around Aotearoa New Zealand.

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