Teacher workforce fixes need to go further – NZEI Te Riu Roa

The Government has unveiled the proposal to recruit up to 1000 new teachers, mostly from overseas.

The Government’s decision to invest funding into fixing the gaps in the teaching workforce is welcomed, but it still needs to go further to ensure that tamariki get the education they deserve.

The Government has unveiled the proposal to recruit up to 1000 new teachers, mostly from overseas, and fund more mid-career scholarships for people wanting to transition into teaching.

“This will help plug the gap in the primary sector and early childhood education in the short term,” NZEI Te Riu Roa President Liam Rutherford said. “But we need a comprehensive plan to grow the teaching workforce much more significantly so that children get the support for their learning with smaller class sizes and better ratios.”

Primary school staffing needs were starkly highlighted in last year’s independent Pūaotanga inquiry and they have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19.

“Children need more teachers to help them reach their potential. It’s that simple,” Mr Rutherford said.
“This funding is a positive step in that direction, but we would urge the Government to have another look at the Pūaotanga report as its recommendations identify a clear pathway to properly staff primary schools.”

Mr Rutherford said reducing class sizes and teacher-to-student ratios allows tamariki to get the attention they need, while early childhood education needs to be funded to ensure centres are not being continually staffed at the minimum levels.

He said it was also concerning the announcement was silent on relief teachers in the primary sector, given the fact principals highlighted many times this year the issues they were facing in recruiting relievers as they tried to keep their schools open during the autumn and winter.

“Analysis by NZEI Te Riu Roa earlier this year showed there was a 34 percent decrease in the available pool of day relief teachers in primary schools between 2012 and 2021. This just proves how vital our reliever workforce is in helping schools deal with short-term staffing issues, even without a pandemic,” he said.

“We also need to ensure that we are attracting more people into teaching and that they stay there by supporting them to meet student needs, and ensure they are paid fairly and reasonably, especially in the context of a cost-of-living crisis.

“Don’t get me wrong, this funding will help provide some short-term fixes, but our children need the Government to look at the systemic staffing issues the primary and early childhood sectors have faced for almost 30 years. We would hope that’s the next step.”