New teachers on fast track

By Kate Shuttleworth

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Teachers with just six weeks' training will be in front of secondary classrooms as part of a controversial initiative to fill jobs in poor schools.

The University of Auckland and Teach First NZ are to recruit the programme's first 20 candidates - who all must already hold a degree - next month, conditional only on Teachers Council sign-off. They are looking particularly for languages, engineering or science graduates.

Teach First has been labelled a "fast-track crash course" by the secondary teachers' union, but principals are welcoming it as a way of getting high-calibre graduates into schools without their having to spend another year at university.

The graduates would be placed in tough-to-staff schools, especially in South Auckland, or in subject areas like sciences that had teacher shortages. They would be bonded to their first school for two years and have on-the-job training - after which they would have the status and pay rate of a fully qualified teacher.

Teach First NZ chief executive Shaun Sutton, 28, is a former telecommunications business analyst who took part in a similar scheme in the UK. He went on to teach low-achieving pupils at a West London school. All his pupils passed their GCSEs - and he was so inspired by the success of the programme that this year he is bringing it to New Zealand.

"We're not looking for people with missionary zeal, who want to save the world, but people who understand socio-economic realities," he said. "We want to diversify the pool of graduates and hope to get Maori and Pasifika applicants."

However, Post Primary Teachers' Association president Robin Duff warned that partially trained teachers would end up in schools with the most vulnerable students.

"There may be tension in schools between beginning teachers with traditional training and those coming from a fast-track course," he said.

"It costs a lot of money to take part in a year-long training programme; fast track students are being paid while they train."

The University of Auckland's dean of education, Graeme Aitken, disagreed that it was a fast-track programme: "The course is condensed, so what you would get on a year-long course can be achieved in six weeks," said Aitken. "A year-long course has a lot of non-contact time, when trainees are out in schools."

In the South Auckland suburb of Pakuranga, Edgewater College principal Allan Vester, who is also head of the Secondary Principals' Council, said Teach First would bring in top graduates that wouldn't normally be attracted to teaching.

"Once they teach, they realise the difference they can make. The same scheme in the US has graduates from Goldman Sachs - they bring a new social awareness from that company." It was a positive step to get non-traditional teachers in the door.

- Herald on Sunday

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