“It’s a step in the right direction,” president of the Post Primary Teachers’ Association, Jack Boyle (pictured above), said.
“But there is a heap more that needs to be done in order to address the situation, so we’re seeing this as a very small step in the right direction.”
Boyle suggested that parts of the plan, including funding for the Teacher Education Refresher (TER) course, would be welcomed by the sector, however, he says the plan left other issues largely unaddressed.
“The real deal is going to be around making teaching more attractive ... and ensuring that enough of [the teachers] we’ve got currently are able to continue.
"So that comes down to rebalancing the workload and increasing remuneration.”
Boyle also expressed concern over how effective the government’s planned marketing campaign, aimed at attracting newcomers to the profession, would be.
“With 20 per cent of our workforce being older than 60, and close enough to 10 per cent being older than 65, with an average age near enough to 50, there’s probably going to be difficulty in getting a message to senior secondary students that this is the sort of career for you, when the people selling it are older than their parents."
That shortage, he said, is much more complex in secondary schools than the government’s plan implies.
“We’ve always said that it’s much bigger than just Auckland.
"[In secondary schools] we’ve got issues across subject specialties, so science, technology, maths, Te Reo Maori, in some cases wider ranges of subjects.
"We’ve got issues in geographic locations beyond Auckland – Tauranga, Queenstown, Wellington – and we’ve got issues in middle management positions.
"We’ve got issues with the relief pool.
"When you try and come up with a simple narrative around shortages, then Auckland is the obvious go-to, but it’s much broader than that because of the subject specialty of the secondary workforce.”
Lynda Stuart, president of the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), agreed that the package does not go far enough in addressing a complex issue.
“Many of the things that are in the new package are things that we’ve asked for, so we do welcome it, but we also know that it’s a really complex issue – attracting and retaining people in the profession – and so it’s going to take more than this one package to actually be able to deliver what we need to deliver to ensure that we continue to have a high quality education system in this country,” she said.
“So we’re looking at this as a first step.
"We do know that in areas like Auckland, where it’s expensive to live and where there’s housing and transport issues, that actually there needs to be more government initiatives to try and alleviate those situations.
"We also know that we’ve got high decile schools that are struggling, parts of this package really only address those schools that are in the lower deciles, so there’s a number of different things that are going to need to happen to ensure that we can attract and retain teachers in the profession.”
She added that the package doesn’t adequately address issues in the early childhood sector.
“They’re experiencing the same sort of issues that we are in the primary sector, so again it’s attracting and retaining people into the profession, it’s around funding – certainly funding for them so that we can fund for 100 per cent qualified and registered teachers, and so that we can also be ensuring that the kindergartens or the early childhood centres are funded so that they’re resourced well for the children who are in there.”
In a statement, Kathy Wolfe, chief executive of Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand, implied that there is more to be done to address issues facing the early childhood sector.
“This package addresses primary and secondary school teacher shortages,” she said.
"We also have shortages of early childhood education teachers. The government’s [previously signalled] commitment to restore funding to levels that enable centres to employ 100 per cent qualified teachers will help attract teachers to the sector – and ensure that young children get the best possible start to their learning.
“Restoring funding will also enable employers to acknowledge the qualifications and quality of their early childhood teachers. This is something employers really want to be in a position to do.”
The issue of pay parity for early childhood educators in the sector is also a concern.
“It does not make sense for early childhood teachers to be paid less than their primary and secondary teacher peers. If all our teachers were paid the same, teaching in the early childhood sector would be more attractive.”
“Where [the] package does benefit Te Rito Maioha directly is the increase in funding for the Teacher Education Refresh (TER) programme in the first six months of 2018.
"As a provider of TER, we welcome the opportunity to increase teacher supply by helping people who have let their certification lapse become fully qualified teachers again.”
Boyle said the new plan won’t have any immediate effect on teacher numbers in 2018, but rather would be more useful in stemming the crisis in 2019.
"Key to solving the crisis in the meantime, Boyle says, is teamwork between teachers, the unions and representative bodies, and the government.
“The way that we’re going to get the job done in terms of the real impact on recruitment and retention, is in partnership.
"If something can be done in short order between the plan announced [and] our collective bargaining next year ... then there’s going to need to be a lot more partnership and openness about how we address problems of not enough people wanting to come into teaching, and more leaving.”
Stuart added that fully addressing the teaching crisis could not only be costly, but would require a shift in the community’s perception of teaching.
“In all situations, it comes back to cost ... but it also comes back to people seeing the profession as the wonderful profession that it really is, and I’m not sure that its seen like that at the moment in this country.
“We’re looking forward to starting 2018 hopefully in a place where some things will have been addressed, but there’s a lot more work to do and we know that, and so does the government.”