It's back to school for students but many teachers are unemployed because of an oversupply.
The number of teachers leaving the profession remains near its lowest point for 10 years, leaving hundreds of graduates out of work.
Principals fear the job shortage could reverse some of the work done to attract the best and brightest to teaching.
One vacancy at a central Auckland secondary school drew more than 70 applications after Christmas, mostly from graduates.
Other teachers, who entered study at a time when the Government spent millions to attract new teachers, have moved overseas after being unable to find work here.
The level of competition for jobs is subject-dependent, with much better prospects for those teaching maths, science and te reo.
A Ministry of Education spokesman said there was a "ready supply of teachers overall" owing to a drop in the number leaving the profession.
More detail on the number of vacancies will be gathered in a survey of schools this week, with results published in March or April.
Robin Duff of the Post Primary Teachers' Association said he understood about 500 newly qualified secondary teachers were without jobs last year.
The economic downturn and resulting uncertainty meant those who had jobs were hanging on to them.
New Zealand Secondary Principals' Council chairman Allan Vester said the fact that good-quality graduates were struggling for jobs could deter the next wave of students from choosing education.
"I've heard anecdotally of university or training college lecturers basically saying, it's great to have finished the course with all of you, but I realise that most of you are not going to get a job in New Zealand."
Mr Vester, head of Edgewater College in Pakuranga, said the principals' council wanted the Government to look at ways to reduce the "famine and feast" of teaching jobs.
"When you are training hundreds of graduates in physical education, the planners must have some idea that there's no way that hundreds of vacancies will become available."
Beverley Cooper, director of Waikato University's Centre of Teacher Education, said the oversupply could change in the coming years.
Primary school enrolments would increase steadily until 2019, and secondary school numbers would start growing in about 2019.
She said predicting demand was complex, and an unprecedented number of teachers were currently working past the age of 65.
In 2009, the Government set up a $19 million teacher-bonding scheme to help overcome a shortage. Many TeachNZ scholarships have now been scrapped.
Job search over for one of the lucky
Brett Sorrenson counts himself as one of the lucky ones. The 21-year-old graduated from Waikato University last November and was ready for a long job search.
He applied for about 20 jobs, one being a social studies and history position at Mt Albert Grammar School.
The school received more than 70 applications for the position, and Mr Sorrenson found out he was its pick only a couple of days ago.
He has now moved to Auckland and is in his first week of teaching.
"I applied for a number of jobs, and just kept persistent with it really ..."
"I know a few [university classmates] who have got jobs. But I know a lot who are finding it quite difficult."
Mt Albert Grammar headmaster Dale Burden said he had advertised 17 positions in the past four months.
There had been "huge numbers" of high-quality applicants.
Aucklander Rebecca Young, 39, has been searching without success for a primary school job since graduating in May last year.
"In the first six months I tried to target out of Auckland, thinking I'd have more of an opportunity."That would be up to 30 applications."
Ms Young estimated about 60 per cent of her university cohort had not found permanent jobs.