26 Oct 2016

House prices creating 'a big hole' in Auckland schools

9:20 pm on 26 October 2016

Auckland principals say almost every secondary school is losing teachers this year because of high house prices, but the Education Ministry says it is not a major factor in retaining staff.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The Auckland Secondary School Principals' Association said the losses were adding up across the city and its members were very concerned about the situation.

Meanwhile, principals in other areas told RNZ News that they too were finding it tough to hire good staff.

Auckland Secondary School Principals Association president James Thomas said schools were advertising their vacancies for next year right now.

He said in Auckland a lot of those vacancies were caused by teachers leaving to work in areas with cheaper houses.

"Just about every secondary school in Auckland has current staff members who are leaving because of financial reasons," he said.

"A case in point would be a family, they've got one child, expecting a second child. They let me know that they needed a bigger place, but they just can't afford a bigger place so the option is they move to somewhere out of Auckland."

Mr Thomas said his school, Whangaparaoa College, had lost two or three teachers in the last couple of years because of house prices, but across the city that added up.

"You've got about 85 secondary schools in Auckland and if every one of them is losing two or three teachers, the cumulative effect of that is huge and there's a big hole there."

Education Ministry spokesperson Karl Le Quesne said teachers no doubt considered house prices when choosing where to work, but its figures indicated it was not a significant factor driving their choice of job.

He said 14 percent of Auckland teachers who changed schools last year moved out of the city, but most moved to another school within the city.

Mr Le Quesne said the ministry expected 6000-7000 vacancies nationally this year, much lower than the peak of 12,000 reached in 2009.

He said there were staffing pressures in Auckland and in rural areas including the West Coast and Nothland and in particular subjects such as science, technology, maths and Māori-medium education.

Hamilton was the closest city to Auckland and at its biggest school, Hamilton Boys High, headmaster Susan Hassall said she had noticed more applications from Auckland teachers in recent years.

"We have benefited from some staff coming from Auckland but there's still a great many people who want to stay up there, understandably. It's not a good way to gain staff, to get them from another centre, what we need is more teachers."

Ms Hassall said even with people moving out of Auckland, it was not easy to find teachers in subjects such as science, maths and English.

"In some subjects there are very, very strong range of applications and in other subjects which are becoming more and more hard to staff we are noticing that we are taking longer to be able to make a good appointment and it's in those areas I think that we are grateful for the fact that there are people looking to move South."

Endeavour School is a new primary school on the northern side of Hamilton.

Principal Marcus Freke said the Auckland situation had not affected his staffing, but it was affecting the school's enrolments.

"A number of our enrolments this year have been from people who are moving south from Auckland and are living in the Flagstaff area and commuting back up to Auckland for their work.

"The theory that has been shared with me is that they can sell up in Auckland and be virtually mortgage free in the northern end of Hamilton and just continue to work in Auckland."

In the other direction from Auckland, to the north, Whangarei Boys' High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith said she was not being swamped with applicants from Auckland.

"We currently have one permanent position advertised and we have one applicant from an Auckland school and one from a Whangarei school and that's it."

Mrs Gilbert-Smith said Northland secondary schools had been struggling to get good applicants and they raised the problem with the ministry earlier this year.

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