12 October 2018

NZEI Te Riu Roa says that proposals to put early childhood and primary teachers on the immigration skills shortages list are an acknowledgment the teacher shortage has reached crisis point.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said putting teachers on the list showed the failure of the market approach under National and the urgent need for the Labour-led Government to make teaching a more attractive career.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) this week has asked for submissions on adding early childhood, primary and secondary teachers to its “Essential Skills in Demand Lists”. The Ministry of Education has supported teachers going on the list.

However Ms Stuart said bringing in overseas teachers was a short-term fix that could create its own issues and distract from the need to get more New Zealanders into teaching.

“For example, it’s at least as important that the Government step in to immediately stop Auckland University cutting staff at its education faculty and consider bringing back bonding for trainee teachers to stem the 40% drop in Initial Teacher Education enrolments in the last five years,” she said.

“It has got to the stage where the Government is finally admitting that we have a problem and that teaching is not an attractive career for many people. It highlights the need to fix this for existing and potential teachers both in terms of the pay, time to teach and lead, and to support children with additional needs,” Mrs Stuart says.

“The Minister [of Education] recently announced that 400 secondary teachers would be recruited from overseas, acknowledging that this is an issue.”

“While we won’t oppose teachers being added to the list for the short term, clearly the quality and sustainability of both primary and ECE workforces are at risk. The ultimate losers will be children and their learning.”

She said other solutions could include bringing back bonding schemes for teachers, supporting beginning teachers better and extending student allowances and loan eligibility.

NZEI Te Riu Roa will be making a submission on the review of essential skills.

ECE teachers were previously on the skills shortage list. However, when National dropped the target and funding for 100% qualified teachers in all ECE centres in 2009, combined with the Global Financial Crisis in 2010, the job was dropped from the list.

“We are also seeing a shortage among specialists in learning support such as educational psychologists and speech language therapists, but this is not being addressed.”