As New Zealand’s borders open, there are worries that the education sector may suffer a new teacher shortage in New Zealand.
Many instructors returned to New Zealand from overseas towards the outset of the epidemic, helping to alleviate the staffing deficit at the time.
However, a sector leader says there has been “artificial inflation” in the teacher shortage in New Zealand being addressed by Covid-19, implying that fewer teachers are leaving.
At yesterday’s Education and Workforce Committee Ministry of Education annual review, National MP Erica Stanford raised the issue with Education Minister Chris Hipkins.
She inquired as to whether a study of the “possible exodus” of young teachers leaving as borders open had been conducted, and what strategies were in place to fight it.
Hipkins said it’s difficult to model, and in the previous two years, there’s been a record high retention rate, with those who may have otherwise retired remaining on and younger instructors staying for longer.
Young people have a habit of traveling abroad, and some working holiday visas have age limitations, so individuals may feel pressured to go now, he added. New Zealand instructors are also in high demand.
Hipkins added they are not sure how many teachers would leave or how many who are now overseas will return, but there has been an increase in teacher training, which the government is focusing on.
According to Dr Cherie Taylor-Patel, National President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation, there will be a “flood of teachers” returning from abroad towards the start of 2020.
“At that time, particularly in our bigger cities, we had a real crisis, a real [teacher shortage in New Zealand]. They actually made up the shortfall of teachers at that time.
“The dilemma now is that as people start looking again to go back overseas and to finish that OE perhaps, we are going to again see that [teacher shortage in New Zealand] exacerbated.”
While it is not yet a catastrophe, Patel-Taylor believes it is beginning to “creep up.”
Melanie Webber, PPTA Te Wehengarua president, says it hasn’t happened yet – probably owing to the two-month resignation period – but it’s a concern.
“We’ve had an artificial inflation of a fixing of our [teacher shortage in New Zealand], more because we haven’t been losing teachers during Covid in the same way.”
Webber, on the other hand, said they know from an Education Review Office study released late last year that younger teachers have struggled throughout the epidemic, and as the workforce’s future, they’re concerned about where they’ll go.
She expressed worry about teachers who had returned to Aotearoa going back overseas, as well as two years’ worth of teachers who would typically do an overseas experience relocating at the same time.
But it’s not just teenagers.
Older instructors may feel it’s no longer safe to teach in the classroom, or they may choose to retire and travel after putting it off for two years, according to Webber.
Webber views it as a chance to address the problems that teachers confront.
Workload is a problem, particularly now that some instructors are required to run a hybrid, in-person online model, as are class sizes and how the work compares to those in other countries, according to Webber.
“We know that the contact hours are higher for New Zealand teachers and we know that we get paid a lot less than in Australia.
“Those are all things that our teachers will be looking at and as the borders open up again, we’ll start to see a pressure on our system.”
Taylor-Patel agrees that individuals must be drawn to and retained in the profession.
Younger teachers, she believes, require continual learning opportunities and support.
And, according to her, it also boils down to income – individuals frequently relocate to nations where they are paid more.
Teacher shortage in New Zealand due to COVID-19
Cases of Covid-19 among youngsters and instructors are causing schools to send entire year groups home or offer online instruction to those who desire it.
According to Education Ministry data, at least 447 schools and early learning centers are dealing with cases, up from 163 a week earlier.
Onslow College in Wellington was aiming to resume normal operations today following three days of home and classroom study due to the pandemic.
Sheena Millar, principal of the school, stated that after being told of two incidents, the school ordered close contacts to return home last week.
Because it was running out of teachers, it also provided home-learning for all pupils.
“We had this sort of perfect storm of a number of staff being asked to isolate and a number of staff who were also away getting tested because they were feeling unwell and we just couldn’t find enough relievers to keep the school running normally,” she said.
About two-thirds of the children at the school chose to remain home, but Millar hoped that everyone would return to class on Tuesday.
“If we haven’t had any other identified cases and how many staff we have available is actually the key for us to keep kids safe at school,” she said.
“I suspect we may move in and out of this a little bit as we move through the next weeks and months.”
According to Education Ministry data, Auckland schools are dealing with more Covid-19 instances than other regions of the nation, with roughly half of the city’s secondary schools and a third of the city’s elementary schools presently dealing with cases.
Ivan Davis, principal of Western Springs College, stated that his staff was more affected than the pupils.
“From a student perspective we’re above 90 percent attendance so our challenge is with staff members often with kids in primary schools where their child has been sent home because they could be in a classroom with a Covid case or they’ve been sent home from daycare facilities and that sort of thing. So they have to stay home, they have to isolate because they could be Covid-positive,” he said.
With the exception of Year 13, the school was running out of instructors and was sending each year group home for one day a week.
“We’re struck with the situation where we’ve got 11 staff out and an expectation that those numbers are going to grow and grow so we’ve introduced a rostering home system to enable a few more staff to be available to cover the staff that are isolating because we don’t want to bring relievers in that have been in the school and potentially bring more virus into the school.”
Karen McMurray, principle of Randwick Park School in Manurewa, was determining who needed to remain home as a close contact and who could stay in class.
“We just got notified about our third case this morning,” she said.
McMurray said the incident came on the heels of another last week, which forced the school to send home an entire group of junior students for three days.
She stated that the school was prepared to transition to remote learning at any time.
“This is probably happening everywhere, teachers are told to take everything home at night that you’re going to need to work from home if you need to.”
McMurray said that the school also delivered hard-copy learning kits to families who required them.