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The hunt is on for nearly 50 primary and intermediate teachers to fill vacancies in Otago and Southland schools.
A search of the Education Gazette, where most teaching vacancies are advertised, showed there were 33 vacancies across Otago and 15 in Southland.
But Southland Primary Principals’ Association (SPPA) president and Ascot Community School principal Wendy Ryan said she was concerned the numbers might actually be higher because not all schools used the Gazette for advertising vacancies.
"Schools have diversified now. They put job vacancies on Trade Me and Seek.
"Before, the Education Gazette was the place that all the jobs went on."
Even more alarming was the fact the numbers would continue to increase between now and the end of 2018, she said.
Staff movements were unsettled at this time of year because they were waiting on other variables, which could lead them to resign at any time.
Between now and the end of the year, more vacancies would arise because people wanted to retire or they had received better offers to teach at other schools, she said.
"The other thing you don’t know is who is suddenly going to go on maternity leave.
"You also don’t know that someone’s husband gets a job somewhere else and they have to shift away.
"It’s always challenging over Christmas."
Mrs Ryan said the SPPA surveyed principals in the region and found "significant numbers" of schools were having to split classes, non-teaching principals were having to teach and the number of applicants for teaching vacancies had dropped.
At this time of year, she expected the number of applicants to be higher because education college graduates were now looking for work.
But graduate numbers in Otago and Southland had dropped, and southern schools were now competing with those of Canterbury and Auckland, whose principals had visited the College of Education in Dunedin to lure graduating teachers north, she said.
"We just don’t have the same number of teachers to fill the vacancies.
"Money is actually an issue because we are now competing with other graduates coming out.
"Teachers are coming into a job paying $45,000 and they might get up to $56,000 [in their first few years]. But some of their friends in other careers are getting $98,000. I heard of a boy on $120,000 doing marketing.
"It’s significantly different."
She said many in the profession were getting tired and depressed about the situation.
"It is very disheartening to be sitting here now and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
"A lot of people are tired. They’re tired of having to fill gaps, tired of the phone ringing in the morning and a teacher calling in sick and having to find a reliever, tired of having to make decisions about splitting classes when they can’t find a reliever — it’s ongoing."
She believed the rolling strikes planned for next month were necessary, to make the Government understand how significant the issues affecting schools were, she said.
Primary and intermediate principals and teachers have voted to walk off the job on November 15.
It follows a national strike on August 15 and NZEI union members’ rejection of a second offer by the Ministry of Education in late September.