Denying school a student 'disturbs' principal

Nathan Parker
Nathan Parker
Warrington School principal Nathan Parker is angry he is not being allowed to accommodate a third-year teaching student from the University of Otago College of Education because of university budget restraints.

Mr Parker said the school would welcome a third-year teaching student, but the university had told him none would be heading his way next year because it would cost too much to send out staff to assess the student.

"It disturbs me that the training of our teachers has come down to dollars and not sense.

"Warrington School provides an opportunity for trainees to see a small, semi-rural school in action; a school that is outside the usual educational box. We are 20 minutes from the university."

Mr Parker said it seemed a sad indictment of the state of teacher training in Otago.

"The short-sightedness of `cost-effective' teacher training leaves me despairing."

University of Otago College of Education primary programmes director Clare Church said the college valued rural primary schools but sometimes there were challenges in sending senior students there for experience.

Ms Church said there would be 130 third-year teaching students and 50 graduate diploma students at the college next year, and organising postings for teaching experience at schools in and around Dunedin was like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Staffing levels at the college had declined and there were fewer people available to assess the students at schools.

Senior teaching students are visited six times for assessment in their final year.

"So we have to use staff time efficiently.

"We try our best to accommodate both students' requirements and staff workloads."

Ms Church said it was unfortunate only one student had requested a posting at Warrington, and unless more senior students requested Warrington or the nearby Waitati School, it would not be possible to place students there.

"It is a financial decision, both in terms of the cost of travel and staff time.

"The simple truth is that we are not funded to the extent that we can send a single final-year student to Warrington.

"We have to work within the confines of a budget and staff time."

The reason no other students wanted to teach there may be because the school was inaccessible to them.

"Many students don't have cars, so some rural schools are not accessible for them. They would prefer to do postings in town."

Ms Church said the situation with postings was continually changing as students confirmed where they wanted to be posted.

The situation about who would go where was not yet clear, and probably would not be until the end of the year.

Otago Primary Principals' Association president Bernadette Newlands said while it was important for students to get postings in different sorts of schools during their teacher training time, recent changes at the College of Education meant principals would have to be more realistic about their expectations.

"Resourcing is obviously tight at the college as the recent staff cuts would demonstrate, and as in all situations where money is tight, people have to be realistic as [the college] faces the challenging task of juggling the available money, staffing, timetables and the needs of the students and schools."

Mrs Newlands suggested it may be easier if rural schools situated near each other worked as clusters to attract several senior teaching students, so a college assessor could assess several students in half a day, rather than just one.

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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