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The Preparedness Of Beginning Teachers In Aotearoa NZ: A Smokescreen For The Real Issues In Our Teacher Workforce

Recently (May 12th, 2024), The Education Review Office released a report, Ready, Set, Teach: How Prepared and Supported are New Teachers? stating that new teachers In Aotearoa New Zealand feel under-prepared to teach. The Equity Through Education Research Centre would like to draw attention to the methodological approach used, and question the sweeping system-wide findings and recommendations of this report. In particular, as only 10% of new teachers were surveyed, sampling procedures do not support drawing generalisations to all beginning teachers, and participant new teachers were likely affected by Covid constraints to their preparation. Additionally, there are other concerning implications of this report that require scrutiny.

The preparation or otherwise of beginning teachers should not be used as a smokescreen to cover up the ongoing issues that have been reported by many teachers. This was clearly demonstrated in a 2023 Teaching Council report - A Snapshot of the Teaching Profession. In this report, teachers, including experienced teachers, reported pressures in relation to their perceived value in the eyes of their communities, poor remuneration, heavy workloads and a lack of support, particularly in relation to the growing diversity of student populations. Worryingly, 58% of teachers reported that they were likely to leave the profession in the next five years.

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Asking beginning teachers (albeit a very small sample) if they are prepared to enter a workforce where these ongoing issues are at the forefront is naïve at best, and in this time of teacher shortage and decreasing Initial Teacher Education enrolments in Aotearoa New Zealand, irresponsible at worst.

How realistic is it to think you can prepare any teacher, let alone new teachers to meet these challenges?

A further smokescreen created by this report is that it reinforces the long-held belief that it is the teacher who makes the critical difference in relation to student outcomes. Teachers can and do make a huge difference, but teachers cannot solve societal issues of poverty, colonisation, trauma, racism and so forth (issues that carry over into the classroom), just as initial teacher education cannot singlehandedly solve these issues. A focus that holds teachers and teacher education accountable for equitable outcomes is ignoring other important issues. These issues must be addressed holistically if we want to create equitable education systems in Aotearoa and have qualified and effective teachers in these spaces.

By all means, let’s shine a light on initial teacher education but remember, it does not operate in a vacuum. Initial teacher education is part of a much wider ‘ecosystem’ in Aotearoa New Zealand – an ecosystem that is struggling under the weight of enormous and complex societal pressures.

The Equity Through Education Centre at Massey University is a group of educational researchers and practitioners working to promote a fair and equitable education system in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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