Teaching: Coming home to teach campaign

Primary school teacher Casey Chamberlain recently returned to NZ from the UK.

A new campaign is aimed at encouraging New Zealand teachers working overseas to return home to work. Launched in December 2016, the initiative makes up part of a wider Ministry of Education package to boost teacher workforce. Education Gazette meets one teacher who has made the trip home.

A new initiative is tapping into that pull of ‘home’ felt by expat New Zealanders.

The ‘Bring a Kiwi Home’ campaign, aimed at encouraging New Zealand teachers working overseas to return home to teach, was launched in mid-December of 2016 as part of a wider effort to address teacher shortages in some subjects and regions.

An important part of the initiative is a social media campaign that taps into those elements of New Zealand life we all hold dear: clean air and water, a sense of fairness and that feeling of home.

Specifically targeted at New Zealand-trained teachers currently working in the UK, the campaign includes a series of short videos put together by a media company and featuring the authentic voices of Kiwi schoolchildren.

Stuart Birch is director of Education Personnel, a Wellington and Auckland-based organisation that has been recruiting teachers since 1995.

As Ministry of Education-preferred recruiters, Education Personnel gives first preference to teachers who are New Zealand citizens or who have New Zealand permanent residency, and Stuart says the social media component of the ‘Bring a Kiwi Home’ campaign is having pleasing results so far.

“We’re certainly getting interest from New Zealand-trained teachers who are currently living overseas – quite a few are approaching us and asking about returning home to work,” he says.

“The social media campaign is well targeted to New Zealand-trained teachers and it features real children – they’re talking directly to the viewer – saying things like ‘come home and teach me’. It’s a neat campaign – very effective.”

With options for interested viewers to click through and find more information, Stuart reports that he and his team are fielding a number of enquiries about teacher registration and job opportunities in New Zealand.

“We’re finding that many of the teachers wanting to return home have different stories, but there are a few common ‘push factors’ in the United Kingdom right now,” he explains.

Changes to working visa rules and regulations are causing some concern among Kiwi teachers, as are some aspects of the education system itself.

“For many of them, the teaching over there is not what they want to be doing anymore,” says Stuart.

“One common feeling is that the way Kiwi teachers tend to establish good relationships with their students is something they value but feel less able to do in that system, and that impacts their job satisfaction.”

In addition, many primary teachers are concerned about the increasingly exam-based curriculum.

“We’re hearing that primary teachers are worried about the assessment-heavy workload for their students in the UK,” says Stuart.

“They really value the New Zealand education system for its flexible curriculum and holistic focus – that idea of educating the whole child.

“And the other point of course is that many younger Kiwi teachers are wanting to come home to start a family – they’ve done their OE and are wanting to put down roots here. The video clips really tap into that feeling of New Zealand being home.”

Working with Education Personnel provides expat teachers with a wealth of professional experience and advice, including the latest information about teacher registration and current issues in New Zealand education.

A valuable experience

Casey Chamberlain is a primary teacher who has very recently made the move back to New Zealand from the UK. After working in London for 17 months, she now has a teaching job at southeast Auckland primary school St Joseph’s Otahuhu.

Casey says there were strong lifestyle factors that influenced her move home.

“The lifestyle in London is stressful and everyone is in a rush – and you have to travel quite far to get to a relaxing green area, and similarly, you often need to travel quite far to get to work.

“I found I was spending up to two hours or more travelling to and and from work – it was dark when I left home, and when I got back!”

Upon her arrival in London, Casey worked as a supply teacher at a range of schools, which helped her get familiar with the UK schooling system. She then had a fixed-term maternity cover position, followed by a stint as a higher-level teaching assistant (HLTA).

Casey was concerned about the assessment-heavy approach to primary education in the UK and felt that teaching was too tailored around test content and OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) reports.

“Teaching in the UK is a lot of work – the planning and marking is extensive. I felt that the marking was for the schools to get the ‘good’ rating rather than for the children’s learning and progress,” she says.

“I also wanted more time and room to be able to make the learning fun and enjoyable for my students. I wanted to give them that sense that learning can be creative and fun.”

However, she believes she developed some excellent teaching strategies during her time working overseas.

“In my opinion you learn a lot of great ideas and behaviour management strategies teaching in London and I was lucky to be able to experience that,” she says.

Casey believes her time teaching in the UK provided excellent professional development, and she values the unique experiences she had.

“It allowed me to work with some fantastic teachers and students from a range of ethnic and social backgrounds – for many of whom English was an additional language,” she says.

“I was able to help those students strive to reach their goals and work extremely hard to reach their potential. Some students had to overcome many obstacles – financial, family, or other things. Yet despite all of that they come to school ready to learn and willing to put in the effort.”

She firmly believes that New Zealand’s child-centred approach to education works well – both in terms of the curriculum and how learning is paced for students.

“New Zealand teachers focus on the children learning and understanding new concepts and ideas before just moving on. The education system here has a range of different subject areas in the curriculum to reach all the students’ different strengths.

“I also think the workload here is more manageable and we have the opportunity to be more creative in the way that we deliver the curriculum in order to make the learning fun and enjoyable for children.

“It’s about creating the environment for them to want to continue on the path of being a lifelong learner,” she says.