On Monday, NZEI released a statement based on Ministry figures, claiming that the teacher shortage across New Zealand primary schools would reach “disaster point by 2030”.

The Ministry figures showed that New Zealand would have an extra 39,933 primary school students by 2030 – that's 553,590, up from 513,657 in 2017.

The union admitted in its statement that exact numbers of FTE teachers required was difficult to calculate because there are differing teacher-student ratios at different year levels.

However, it said at a ratio of 1:26, an extra 1535 teachers will be needed, and at a ratio of 1:22 an extra 1815 teachers will be needed.

NZEI is currently calling for a reduction in class sizes for students in Years 4 to 8, which are currently funded at a ratio of 1:29, to a ratio of 1:25, as part of their ongoing collective agreement negotiations.

The union entered mediation with the Ministry of Education on Tuesday, and members this week voted to conduct a full day strike on August 15.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart says the new figures are worrying.

“At the current rate of churn, we are swiftly moving from a crisis to a disaster," she said.

"Student numbers for teacher training have plunged by 40 per cent in the past five years, a bubble of baby boomers is nearing retirement, and the huge workload and low pay is pushing many out of the profession within a few years of graduating.

"And that's before we factor in an extra 40,000 children.”

Stuart called on the Government to invest in education, to improve teacher numbers and pay.

“… Now with the National Party's U-turn on school policy, including class size and teacher pay, there is simply no opposition to addressing the crisis in education.

"The current Government now has bipartisan support to take bold moves to turn the teaching crisis around and once again make teaching a viable career choice," she said.

In response, the Ministry of Education released a statement expressing surprise at NZEI’s claim that the teacher shortage is heading towards disaster point.

Deputy Secretary of Early Learning and Student Achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid, said the Government was aware of the projections.

“That’s why in Budget 2018, $370 million was set aside to fund 1500 more teacher places by 2021 to meet population growth," she explained.

"Addressing teacher supply is a priority.

"Last year the Education Minister announced a $9.5 million teacher supply package to address immediate pressures by supporting more graduates into permanent teaching positions, supporting experienced teachers back into the profession and recruiting new graduates into teaching.

“A further $20 million was provided in Budget 2018 to continue to fund these initiatives over the next four years."

In its statement, the Ministry said to increase teacher supply it had:

  • funded 890 teacher education refresher places to remove cost barriers so that teachers can return to teaching faster; 
  • paid 137 overseas relocation grants making it easier for New Zealand teachers to return home; 
  • expanded the Auckland Beginner Teachers programme to 60 places in 2018 with another 60 places available in 2019; 
  • increased the number of new teachers training through Teach First NZ to 80 in both 2018 and 2019; 
  • and expanded the Voluntary Bonding Scheme to encourage new teachers to work in decile 2 and 3 Auckland schools, and nationwide in identified subjects and Māori Medium Kura. Around 300 teachers who started their role in 2018 will be eligible.

"To attract people to the teaching profession we have proposed increasing salaries for new teachers in the current bargaining round," MacGregor-Reid added.

"We have offered a cumulative increase of 14.7 percent for graduates with a teaching degree ($47,980 to $55,030) over three years and a 14.2 percent cumulative increase for graduates with a subject degree and graduate teaching diploma ($49,588 to $56, 638) over three years.

"That means the starting salary for qualified teachers would be $50,280, increasing to $55,030 in 2020.

"We’re also working with the sector to develop a workforce strategy, which includes improving recruitment and retention - the first education workforce strategy in 30 years."

NZEI has said that the Ministry’s pay offer falls far short of what is required.

The union is seeking 16 per cent over two years to address recruitment and retention issues and has said the Ministry’s offer works out instead to a pay rise ranging from about 2.2-2.6 per cent a year for three years for 86 per cent of teachers, and 12 minutes of extra time a week to work individually with children or plan and assess learning.

NZEI said its request to fund a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in every school to assist children with additional learning needs, also put forward as part of their collective bargaining claim, was ignored by the Ministry.