Teacher shortage looming in South

Tracy O'Brien.
Tracy O'Brien.
Otago and Southland secondary schools have 32 teacher vacancies which need to be filled before the start of the 2019 school year.

With the number of vacancies expected to increase during that time, it could spell trouble for some schools.

An informal survey, passed around the 25 principals who attended the recent Otago and Southland Secondary Principals' Conference in Wanaka, found 20 of the teaching vacancies were in Otago and 12 were in Southland.

Otago Secondary Principals' Association secretary Gavin Kidd said seven of the principals did not have any teaching vacancies, three principals needed as many as three teachers, and the remainder needed between one and two teachers.

The vacancies were mainly in rural areas or smaller centres, and were created by present staff being promoted, resigning or retiring at the end of this year.

The vacancies were for a wide range of subjects, he said.

''There is certainly a shortage of teachers in certain areas like technology, some English, some maths, some of the sciences in particular.

''At the moment, approximately two-thirds of the secondary schools in Otago and Southland are looking for at least one or two staff for next year.''

Otago Secondary Principals' Association immediate past-president and Kavanagh College principal Tracy O'Brien was surprised by the number of vacancies, and was concerned the numbers were on the rise.

''It's certainly what I would call marginally higher than what I would normally expect for our area.

''It could be just the start of a rise in vacancies, because we've still got a long time until Christmas and January 28 [when schools open again], and other vacancies can emerge.

''If that's the number now, there's an expectation it could be even higher. It wouldn't surprise me.''

He said staff movements were still quite unsettled.

''They could be waiting on other variables which then lead them to resign at the last minute.

''Having people resign right up to the last day of school is not unheard of.

''It's obviously disappointing but sometimes it can't be avoided because of people's personal circumstances.''

Mr O'Brien said after October 30, if a staff member resigned it was much more difficult to fill their position.

''If I haven't got something sorted by then, [I] could be well into January trying to get an appointment completed.

''It is really fraught. Once you get to Christmas without positions filled, you're potentially in trouble.''

Adding to the challenge was that southern schools were now competing with schools further north for teachers.

''We have had competition. You can appoint someone or think you've appointed someone, and they've had a better offer from a school in Auckland, the Waikato or Wellington, and suddenly you don't have them any more.

''Some of us have had people plucked from us at the eleventh hour.

''Suddenly there's competition on a national scale.''

Teaching unions and the Government are working hard to attract more teachers to the profession, in the hope of holding off the chronic shortage of teachers around the country at present.

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