24 Feb 2009

Bonding scheme aimed at retaining graduates

5:24 am on 24 February 2009

The Government hopes a bonding scheme for new teachers and health professionals will encourage them to stay and work in New Zealand.

The voluntary scheme is available to graduate doctors, nurses, midwives teachers and vets.

Details of the scheme were issued on Monday.

Graduates are being asked to commit to working for three to five years in areas where there are staff shortages.

In return, they are being offered student loan write-offs or cash payments of between $3500 and $16,000 a year before tax.

New teachers will be eligible for $3500 per year before tax - to be paid towards their student loan, or as a cash payment if they do not have a loan.

Payment for doctors will be $15,873 before tax, $11,000 for vets, $5224 for midwives and for $4229 for nurses.

The money will be paid to graduates in a lump sum at the end of a three-year term and more will be offered if they choose to stay for up to five years.

The bond scheme is expected to cost $30 million by 2012.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says New Zealand is losing many of its smartest young people overseas, and the scheme is a response to that.

Education Minister Anne Tolley expects up to 1800 teachers to be eligible this year to take up positions in low decile schools, remote areas, and in subject areas where there are teacher shortages.

Move welcomed

The Rural General Practice Network welcomes the Government's move to provide cash incentives for medical student graduates in a bid to encourage them to move to rural areas that find it hard to attract staff.

Chairperson Kirsty Murrell-McMillan says anything that provides an incentive for graduates to reduce student debt is a help.

Agriculture Minister David Carter says the package is designed to get more vet graduates to commit themselves to rural New Zealand.

The Labour Party also welcomed the scheme.

Union wants more detail

Though many in the health sector are praising the scheme, teacher groups say they would like to see more detail about how it will work.

Education union the NZEI says the bonding scheme is a positive move, but there is also a need for incentives for experienced teachers to work in schools which have problems getting staff.

NZEI president Frances Nelson says there is a danger that under the scheme, poor schools will continue to be the training ground for many new teachers.

Ms Nelson says schools need a mix of beginning and experienced teachers.