On Thursday, the Ministry of Education released the results of its new tool for forecasting teacher supply and demand.

According to the Ministry, the tool takes the outlook for the student roll, based on demographic and migration forecasts for the years ahead, and maps the potential demand for teachers using a range of data inputs.

The initial results show that in 2019, the supply of primary school teachers nationally will be 650 lower than demand, while the supply of secondary school teachers will be 170 lower than demand.

According to the model, this is enough to meet demand for teachers from staffing entitlement, but not to meet the estimated level of demand for employing teachers over entitlement.

Declining primary student rolls beyond 2020 will drive a decrease in demand between 2020 and 2023, according to the model.

This, in turn, is attributed to a period of higher birth rates between 2008 and 2011.

Coupled with several years of positive net migration of school-aged children, this means secondary student rolls should experience steady growth in the future – leading to higher demand for secondary teachers and the Ministry’s current supply projection tracking lower over the forecast period.

In fact, there could be a shortfall of more than 2000 secondary school teachers by 2025.

Initial results for Auckland, where the teacher shortage is being strongly felt, show a similar pattern: supply of primary teachers will be 260 lower than demand next year, and the supply of secondary school teachers will be 130 lower.

Projections for other regions are not available; however the Ministry is investigating the development of full regional breakdowns for primary and secondary teachers.

It is also looking into developing a planning model for day relief teachers.

In addition, supply projections assume a ‘do nothing’ scenario in which policy settings don’t change beyond 2019.

“While the tool provides data out to 2025, the figures for out years are highly speculative and assume nothing is done to increase teacher supply,” Ellen MacGregor-Reid, the Ministry’s Deputy Secretary for Early Learning and Student Achievement, explained.

She described the new tool as a “key plank” in the Ministry’s workforce strategy.

“It’s also important to remember that every teacher recruited – through our new three-year marketing campaign and other recruitment initiatives – reduces the number needed in the estimates of out-years,” she added.

Post Primary Teachers’ Association president, Jack Boyle, said the forecast out to 2025 was “baffling” as it has assumed that there was the correct number of teachers in 2017 – which he said the workforce knows is not true.

“Quality data and and forecasting are essential to create a plan for the teaching workforce,” he said.

“Acknowledging the challenges for the profession is an important first step.

“Using flawed assumptions to begin with isn’t the best start, though.

“What this data does show very clearly is that we need to recruit a lot more teachers,and do everything we can to make it a career they want to stay in,” Boyle added.

NZEI Te Riu Roa described the model as a “good first step”, but warned it had “some significant flaws” and came too late to affect the teacher shortage that schools will face in 2019.

NZEI also criticised the tool for not including the early childhood sector.

“Early childhood is not in these projections and we know that already there are problems with recruiting and retaining teachers in that sector,” NZEI president Lynda Stuart said.

“There is a shortage and it is getting worse. 

“This is such an important time in a child’s life and learning, and this needs urgent attention.''

She said estimates that New Zealand would be 650 primary teachers short next year were “conservative”.

“The model is based on a number of assumptions, some of which are flawed and most of which are untested as yet. 

“It could be several years before we see how accurate the tool is.

"It is also based on a head-count of teachers from their payroll, which does not accurately reflect the number of full-time teacher equivalents needed by schools.

“We know that, increasingly, many teachers have opted to work part-time, so a tool based on a full-time equivalent measure (FTTE) would provide more accurate data,” she said.