16 Dec 2016

Housing costs, traffic blamed for worsening Auckland teacher shortage

8:18 am on 16 December 2016

Some Auckland school principals fear they will start the school year without all the teachers they need, as the city's teacher shortage worsens.

A view from behind of teacher aide and two little girls while rest of class taught  further into classroom.

About 100 teaching positions are currently still being advertised in Auckland and Auckland Primary Principals Association president Diane Manners says there may be many more vacancies. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

Principals said the city's traffic woes were starting to deter teachers from staying in Auckland, adding to the pressure caused by high house prices.

Auckland Secondary Principals Association principal James Thomas said some of the association's members were worried they would start next year without a full complement of staff.

"Recently I met with the executive of the principals' association and not one of the schools represented - and there were 10 schools represented - are fully staffed for the start of next year."

The unfilled vacancies were in a wide variety of subjects, not just the known shortage areas of science and maths, Mr Thomas said.

It was not unusual to have one or two staff leave late in the year because they had gained promotions at other schools, but this year was different.

"What we have seen is some last-minute resignations from positions across Auckland," he said.

"They're moving out of Auckland to find something more affordable or they're moving to another part of Auckland to a school nearer where they live because of the transport problems within Auckland."

Congested outgoing traffic in the afternoon rushhour on an Auckland motorway

Auckland Secondary Principals Association principal James Thomas says teachers are moving to escape transport problems and unaffordable housing. Photo: 123rf

Auckland Primary Principals Association president Diane Manners said schools started advertising their 2017 jobs in September but the number of applicants was particularly low.

"Just a quick glance at the [Education] Gazette this morning I came up with probably close to 100 positions that are being advertised right now," she said.

"The concern with that for me is that actually I know there's a lot of schools that will have stopped advertising when they've been unable to meet their needs from the Gazette and so therefore they'll be looking at alternatives to how to staff their schools."

It was hard to persuade teachers to move to Auckand and middle-management positions were especially hard to fill.

"We can attract, to some degree, very young teachers who are quite mobile and they'll look at going into a flat for a period of time, but it is extremely difficult to recruit into middle management because it means people coming in here potentially in their thirties to forties," Ms Manners said.

"It wouldn't be unusual to have no applicants for a middle-management position in Auckland at the moment."

Real Estate sold sign

Some are blaming housing costs in the city. Photo: RNZ/Eileen Cameron

Because it was hard to attract teachers from outside of Auckland, schools were effectively shuffling teachers between each other, she said.

Mr Thomas and Ms Manners said staff in management roles might have to take on teaching duties at schools that could not find enough teachers.

Mangere East Primary School principal Anthony Noble-Campbell said transport problems combined with high house prices were deterring potential applicants.

"We're not getting applicants from out of Auckland because I'm guessing it's too difficult to find accommodation, and we don't necessarily get a lot of teachers from across Auckland because of the traffic," he said.

"I had a great young teacher, first-year teacher coming from Pokeno, just said to me, 'Look, the traffic's too much.'"

The school would be starting next year with five beginning teachers in a staff of 22 or 23, and it would be difficult to find enough relievers to cover the one day a week of release time they are each entitled to, Mr Noble-Campbell said.

Education Ministry acting head of student achievement Karl Le Quesne said the ministry had been talking to Auckland principals about the situation.

"Principals are consistently telling us they find it difficult to fill vacancies, and that's a real concern for us," he said.

"Our own data shows a small increase in vacancies compared to the same period last year, up 2.8 percent."

The ministry had contracted a specialist education recruitment provider to help Auckland schools, Mr Le Quesne said.

It also identified 533 UK teachers who were interested in jobs in New Zealand and who the ministry could match to school vacancies.

"Three to four hundred of these teachers are considering a move to New Zealand in the next 12 to18 months," he said.

Other initiatives included funding more places on the Teach First teacher training programme in Auckland, a new project to support 38 new teachers in Auckland schools next year, and 100 scholarships to encourage science, technology and maths graduates to train as teachers.

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