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On top of a well-documented increase in the number of teachers retiring or leaving education, primary teacher graduate numbers from the university’s programmes dropped from 176 in 2011 to 101 in 2017, and secondary teaching graduates have dropped from 123 in 2010 to 28 in 2017.
The figures back up concerns raised by teachers during the recent strike about a lack of new teachers.
NZEI National Principals’ Council Otago representative and Abbotsford School principal Stephanie Madden was shocked at the significant drop in Otago teaching graduates.
"We’ve got to be able to recruit the best and brightest graduates and those statistics are really alarming."
Associate dean (teacher education) Associate Prof Alex Gunn said the university had stopped offering some of its programmes in Dunedin and Invercargill, and was now offering post graduate pathways to teaching in line with Government initiatives.
"The masters degree required more resources, including more input from schools. The Government limited the number of students it would fund for the programme, so this is partly why the number of graduates has decreased."
Ministry of Education data showed the issue was nationwide and the number of students completing initial teacher education (ITE) qualifications was declining around the country.
More tellingly, Education Council statistics showed the number of teaching graduates gaining their practicing certificate had decreased 32.5%, from 6249 in 2007 to 4217 in 2017.
Over the same time, the number of teachers who did not renew their practising certificate within six years has increased 151.4%, from 2456 in 2007 to 6174 in 2017.
A council spokeswoman said some of those who failed to renew their certificates may return in the future. By the same token, individuals with a practicing certificate were not necessarily teaching.
Mrs Madden said many southern schools were receiving fewer applications for positions than they had in the past.
"I do know of two Otago teaching positions which have been advertised in the past two months and there have been no applicants.
"We are heading for a major crisis."
Mrs Madden said he understood the average time a new graduate stayed teaching was only five years.
One key reason was workload. Primary teachers received only one hour of classroom release for assessment, other planning and administrative tasks.
"The additional hours outside of teaching are absolutely massive."
The second key reason was much better pay in other professions - particularly for secondary teaching graduates, Mrs Madden said.
A Ministry of Education spokeswoman said the Government last year announced a $9.5 million teacher supply package to address immediate pressures by supporting more graduates into permanent teaching positions, recruiting new graduates into teaching and supporting experienced teachers back into the profession.
A further $20 million was provided in Budget 2018 to fund these initiatives over the next four years, she said.
"Early figures suggest these teacher supply initiatives are working."
At at August 1, 980 teacher education refresher places had been funded to remove cost barriers so teachers could return to teaching faster.
And 139 teachers coming to New Zealand had received the Overseas Relocation Grant as at July 20, and 41 schools had received a finder’s fee to help with the costs of recruiting those teachers.
The spokeswoman said $370 million was also set aside in the budget for 1500 new teaching places by 2021 to meet population growth.
"Retention numbers remain high. The number of primary school teachers remaining in the job has increased from 91.8% in 2014 to 93.8% in 2017.
"The number of principals remaining in the job has increased from 95.0% percent in 2014 to 95.4% in 2017."