Sunday, 14 October 2018

Chris Hipkins, I have the solution to the teacher supply crisis!

Today, Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, announced an extention to the programme to recruit 850 teachers from overseas, up from the original 400 teachers, hoping to attract New Zealand teachers currently teaching off shore. This follows the MOE asking Immigration NZ to put teaching on the skills shortage list on Friday.

This plan has a fatal flaw however. As NZEI president Lynda Stuart pointed out in the NZEI press release today, "Overseas recruitment may be necessary given this crisis point, but it's a bandaid solution - there's a global shortage of teachers, and if we don't do something about the workload and remuneration of teachers, overseas teachers won't last in the system any longer than our homegrown teachers."

Everyday in the last two weeks I have heard of teachers quiting teaching to do something else in New Zealand or leaving New Zealand to be a teacher overseas.  I've also heard repeated stories from teachers who came home from teaching overseas to New Zealand, only to discover they worked such long hours in New Zealand for such poor pay they never saw their families, so they have gone back overseas for worklife balance.

On top of all this is the last National led government's Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye, telling the current Minister, Mr Hipkins, that he is not doing enough.  See this press release via Voxy.  A complete act of hypocrisy considering during nine long years of National, teachers were villified for "failing students", given 1% pay rises and had increasing teacher workloads amongst all the GERM battles.

So my message to Minister Hipkins is this - the fastest way to get teachers into our classrooms is to attract those who have recently left back. How can that happen:
  • a pay jolt.
  • reduce workload (get ERO to pull their head in and stop insisting on useless data and let schools use their small data to drive the learning).
  • reduce class sizes.
  • increase classroom release - teachers shouldn't have to be using their weekends and evenings to do work in preparation for school and dealing with data input and writing reports.
  • give us more help for children with special needs - a SENCO in every school.
Solve all these issues and we wouldn't be hemorrhaging teachers from our schools.

In regards to teachers required to do the Teacher Refresher Course to retain a practicing certificate, I believe we should be approaching that differently and with a more cost effective programme. Instead of doing the course:
  • those returning to the classroom in either a fulltime or part-time role should be getting an advice and guidance programme for a minimum of one term.
  • relief teachers should have a base school with which they can do PLD and receive guidance and appraisal to meet the conditions for being a reliever. 
Then we have the problem of attracting people to the profession via training programmes.  Over the last ten years universities have been under pressure to put bums on seats.... but teaching has become unattractive.  

Universities have slashed and burned their faculties that do initial teacher education.  The Faculty of Education at Waikato University is unloved, nothing has changed physically since I did my initial teacher education in the 1990s.  Add to that the fact Prof Neil Quigley has gutted the Faculty of staff, it is even grimmer.

Now we have the University of Auckland cutting most of its initial teacher education programmes and staff and its advisory service.  How will this help with the need to train new teachers?

I understand that the current negotiations with primary teachers and principals and secondary teachers mean that co-operation between the Minister's office and unions has taken a battering and is on hold, but we really need to suck it up on both sides to work together to solve these issues.  

The Ministry of Education continuing to offer teachers pay rises without addressing the issues of workload (class sizes, classroom release, etc.), recruitment and retention, and special education is not helping.  

Tracey Martin is doing great work in special education, but that is a proposal currently.  Teachers have seen working party after working party over the last two decades with nothing achieved and won't wait anymore for this issue to be addressed.  Hence why it is in our pay claim.  

Until the Minister gets ERO to pull their heads in, principals have their hands tied to reduce workload and teachers continue to collect data that does not necessarily mean much.

Without classroom release, teachers will continue to be forced to use their family time to work in the evenings and at weekends.  Chris Hipkins will claim we don't have enough release teachers because we have a teacher shortage.  I think the teachers will emerge from the woodwork to do the release if they increase classroom release.

So Chris, how far are you prepared to come to solve the teacher crisis?

You should have hired me when you had the chance, but I went back to teaching.  But if you ask my current boss Nigel nicely, I'm sure he'll let me pop down to Wellington to help you out.  Jacinda has his contact details.  But then again, I'm pretty sure you have mine.  😁😁😁


  1. Yes, the ongoing demoralisation of the primary teachers has much to do with the exodus from the profession. Watching teachers work on secondary jobs to make ends meet can only be fixed by a significant pay rise. Reduced paper work is a must and serious attention to meeting special needs with an instant doubling of Seg to schools would be a start.

  2. This blog post needs to be mainstream - everyone who cares about the education of our children needs to read this and KNOW that it on pointe!

  3. Good for you, Mel. Sensible ideas, well-expressed as usual. What were they thinking? Did they ask anyone with a clue about teachers?

  4. Can you put this up somewhere so we can send to our mps and share with chris so he gets the idea we agree, please

  5. A few years ago, I asked a year 12 class of boys if any of them were heading into teaching. The response was an absolute "NO!" Why? Pay for the work they did, status of teachers in the community, and the way teachers were treated by students - a lack of respect shown for even their best, favourite teachers by some students.

    NCEA and all the extra work involved, plus the lowering of standards in most subjects, is a serious problem. More than one experienced teacher has gotten fed up and quit.
    I remember one year we were stuck with a hairbrained scheme where we were made to test and record virtually every skill in maths and science. My mark book looked like an enormous spreadsheet for each class. Yet it did no better at predicting course success than my HOD science a few years before who just gave end of module tests. I have seen NZ education at high school level go through so many trends, most of which are pushed by the ministry as the be all and end all of education,
    yet have little real effect. I remember the push to have science as an exploratory subject with a text called Science Makes Sense. It virtually had the students trying to rediscover 2000years of science from scratch. Case in point at the moment is the 'open plan' classroom holding up to 5 classes. My school library ran an open plan with a 'reading pit', set of tables, and glassed in room. Even with the librarians and two or more teachers, it was hard to keep the students focused. For some subjects,it may work well. You can't do that with science, and for the maths classes I've taught, one classroom works best.