The Teacher Supply Working Group met at the beginning of 2016. This article, from the November issue of the PPTA News, summarises some of the discussion.
Secondary teacher shortages are at crisis point. There are vacancies in many subject areas and in many geographical areas.
Recruitment is in decline and schools are losing teachers. Principals are considering the prospect of cancelling subjects for lack of trained and qualified secondary specialists.
Forecasts indicate student numbers will go down for a couple of years but then increase until 2027. If we maintain our current teaching workforce as it is now we’ll need to fill 1100 more teaching positions than we have now.
Pay, workload, housing costs and a government committed to reducing spending on public services.
This is how ministry bureaucrats describe teaching careers. You are shoved in one end, pushed through schools and classrooms, and then eventually squirted out the other into a retirement village.
Understand that teachers are dedicated to delivering the best outcomes for students, treat them as human beings worthy of respect and value the work they do.
Recognise they are more than teaching labour units, that they, their whānau and communities have needs.
Pay them a salary which is competitive with other professions; give them a workload which does not force them into ill health. Make the job conditions attractive again.
Working together to find a solution
We agree with the bureaucrats, there definitely needs to be the right number of teachers, but we know it’s way more complex than shoving you through a pipeline.
We’re committed to making sure every teacher, from their very first position through to retirement, is well-supported and encouraged to reach their professional potential. One of the main ways we do this is through the collective agreements. We’ve been working with the Ministry of Education, the School Trustees Association, the Secondary Principals’ Council, the Secondary Principals’ Association and the Education Council to identify what the problems are and recommend solutions.
The teaching workforce is ageing. Over 45 percent of secondary teachers are over 50. If that’s you, we want to make sure that if you leave you are replaced by someone equally able and that if you choose to stay you can look forward to a long and productive career that closes with dignity.
There is a high rate of attrition among beginning secondary teachers. Just under half leave teaching within their first five years. Fewer beginning teachers are entering the profession.
Fixed term, insecure appointments cause people to leave teaching, make the profession risky and unattractive and are often illegal.
There are not enough new teachers in subjects like physics and chemistry, technology, and mathematics. There are also significant shortages in subjects like business, Te Reo Māori, agriculture, horticulture and a number of languages. In some areas even English positions cannot be filled.
As a sector, we need to work together to develop new ways to support people with the skills we need into the profession. Things like scholarships for specialised subject areas would be a good start but we also need to increase salaries to a competitive level.
The Supply Working Group made 41 recommendations and we and some of the other groups made an additional 13 that weren’t supported by the ministry.
Getting the ministry and the government to agree that the funding pie could be bigger and not just cut into smaller and smaller slices is something we’re still working on.
Meanwhile, we continue to work towards an education sector where every teacher is valued and supported, and every student has the opportunity to reach their potential.