Overseas teachers will 'not fix' issue

Chris McKinlay
Chris McKinlay
Education Minister Chris Hipkins is dreaming if he thinks luring expatriate and overseas teachers to New Zealand will solve the teacher shortage crisis, Otago educators say.

On Sunday, Mr Hipkins announced plans to hire an additional 650 primary teachers and 200 secondary teachers, in a bid to meet an expected staffing shortfall next year.

``We're committing an extra $10.5million, on top of the $29.5million already announced since late last year, to ramp up teacher recruitment initiatives and increase funding for schools.''

Up to 230 grants of $10,000 will be provided to encourage schools to employ more graduate teachers, an additional $5million is available for overseas relocation grants and finder's fees for overseas teachers, and there will be easier access to up to the $3000 per teacher finder's fee to help schools offset recruitment costs.

Overseas-trained teachers would come from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia and Fiji, which all had teaching qualifications similar to ours.

Mr Hipkins said the immediate focus was to get sufficient quality teachers in place for the next school year.

Longer-term workforce planning was under way aiming to address the need for even more teachers in ``a few years' time''.

However, Otago Primary Principals' Association chairman Chris McKinlay was blunt in his response.

``It's not going to solve the problem.

``They're trying to attract teachers from places like Australia, but Australian teachers get paid significantly more and they have some quite good conditions we don't have here.

``So why would you want to come here?'' he said.

``Even if we attract these teachers to New Zealand, will we be able to keep them?

``The bigger part of the fix here is making the conditions and salary more attractive to keep the teachers we are going to get.''

Otago Secondary Principals' Association secretary Gavin Kidd was also concerned that if overseas teachers could be attracted to New Zealand, it would only increase the workload and stress of existing teachers.

``As an ex-principal, I can say bringing back New Zealand-trained teachers who could slot back into our system would be good.

``But if they're overseas-trained teachers who are not familiar with the New Zealand system, they're still going to need support and mentoring to bring them up to speed, and that's not an overnight fix.

``It's expensive from the point of view that it needs a commitment by staff at the school to be supporting and mentoring the teachers who are new to the system.''

There were already significant workload issues that need to be looked at, he said.

``Certainly for secondary teachers who are new to NCEA, there's quite a lot of work to do to get them familiar with the system and support them.''

Mr McKinlay said he had spoken to some Otago principals who had already brought in teachers from places such as South Africa.

``They said it was good to have the teacher in the classroom, but there are some significant differences in the way they expect things to work.

``It took quite a lot of time, effort and resources to bring them up to speed - and that was having to be put in by existing teachers who are already overworked.''



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