But they also great success stories and it is these stories that Auckland Primary Principals’ Association (APPA) president Frances Nelson finds most rewarding about her role she has held since the start of Term 2.
Nelson stepped into the one-year role after a three year stint as national president of the New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) from 2008 to 2010.
As NZEI president, Nelson saw what was happening nationally in education, so it was interesting for her to come back to her role as principal at Fairburn Primary in South Auckland, and into the president’s role of the APPA.
“It has been very interesting to see where Auckland schools fit into the big picture,” she adds.
Nelson has been a primary school principal since 1981 and has seen many changes within education during her career.
But she thinks some of the biggest changes to affect Fairburn School and other schools in Auckland will strike in the near future.
“The intensity of the housing market in Otahuhu has seen rent going up and up which means some families can no longer afford to live in the area,” she says.
“We are a reflection of what is happening across Auckland … movement from school to school is at its greatest at the moment.”
Nelson believes staffing is becoming a significant issue in Auckland and the Ministry of Education needs to look at various measures to ease the mounting pressure on schools.
“Not every area has a resident community of teachers, and people have to travel to work which is expensive and takes a lot of time.
“The areas which have the greatest demand for teachers are West, Central and South Auckland and providing experienced and beginning teachers for these areas is challenging,” Nelson says.
Increasing costs to buy or rent a home in Auckland means many teachers are moving from the region to less expensive areas.
“Last year our school lost four teachers – one to Northland, two to Invercargill and one to Hastings and I’m confident we were not the only school.”
But there is no quick fix, Nelson says. School houses which once provided a cheaper alternative for teachers are now rented out at market value and it is becoming more and more important for schools to look at how they can attract teachers and entice them to stay in certain areas.
Demand for experienced teachers in Auckland is growing, but recent graduates and provisionally registered teachers find it extremely difficult to find work, meaning they often turn their backs on a teaching career, Nelson says.
“There is an over-supply of beginning teachers and an under-supply of experienced teachers.”
Schools need a good balance of experienced teachers to provide advice and guidance to beginner teachers striving to become fully registered, and of beginner teachers to ensure there are enough registered teachers further down the track.
“I think this would be a good time for the Ministry (of Education) to talk with organisations about maintaining the supply of teachers … and to enable schools who can take extra staff to do so,” Nelson says.
The APPA president’s role is a challenging yet satisfying role for Nelson, who says primary schooling is under-valued.
“It is a critically important time for young children … if you do not do a good job in primary school then the students will struggle when they go to secondary school.
“We enjoy getting children who have been through a strong early childhood education, and so we in turn try to help primary school students make the best of their intermediate and secondary school years.”
Nelson finds reward in working alongside colleagues experiencing great success stories with students, and running excellent programmes in their schools despite the challenges Auckland schools face.
“It is a really worthwhile job - I would recommend it to anyone and I think there comes a time when we need to consider leading our colleagues.
“It opens your eyes, broadens then mind and fills in the gaps,” she says.
Visit appa.org.nz for more information about the Auckland Primary Principals’ Association.