Job shortages after teacher flood

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Tara-Brock Sullings Tasi applied for about 50 teaching jobs before giving up and going to South Korea to work. Photo / Supplied
Tara-Brock Sullings Tasi applied for about 50 teaching jobs before giving up and going to South Korea to work. Photo / Supplied

Hundreds of new teachers trained to overcome a staffing shortage in schools are struggling to find jobs.

The Government spent millions on attracting new teachers to training schools, particularly in lower-decile areas.

But students who went in thinking they had a guaranteed job at the end of their training are now finding they have nowhere to go.

The global economic crisis is being blamed for a rise in the number of teachers staying in their jobs, meaning few new positions are becoming available.

"The number of schoolteachers leaving the profession is at its lowest point for 10 years, and so is the number of teaching vacancies," said TeachNZ manager Di Davies.

"This is reducing the number of positions available for teachers who are looking for work. As a result, there is now high competition for teaching jobs and they are being filled quickly."

In 2009, the Government set up a $19 million teacher-bonding scheme to help overcome a shortage of staff at the chalkface and to attract personnel to schools that had difficulty retaining staff.

Post Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff said he understood about 400 to 500 newly qualified secondary teachers were without jobs last year.

Compounding the problem were 156 teaching jobs lost in Canterbury last year, as schools there reshuffled their budgets after the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

The problem is not limited to secondary school teachers; leaders in the primary and early childhood sectors say they, too, have had a flood of teachers chasing the few jobs.

Manurewa Intermediate principal Iain Taylor said 303 people applied for a recently advertised vacancy at the school.

They included experienced teachers as well as those fresh from university and from all parts of the country.

"It was amazing. It was for a learning support teacher and we had asked for an experienced teacher, but we got a lot of beginning teachers."

Mr Taylor, a former Auckland Primary Schools Principals Association president, said new teachers were finding it hard to get jobs, and many were moving overseas to find work.

"I feel sorry for them. The calibre was amazing ... In the end we appointed two people for the one position just because we couldn't choose."

The national secretary of the primary teachers' union the NZ Educational Institute, Paul Goulter, said the Government needed to work more closely with the sector to make sure teachers were being looked after.

"In terms of primary, we're being told there are all sort of difficulties. Why do we have lots of qualified teachers sitting on the sideline?"

Mr Goulter said he could not put an estimate on the number of teachers having trouble finding jobs, but said "many frustrated teachers" had finished their training and wanted to work but couldn't.

One is Tara-Brock Sullings Tasi, who graduated with a bachelor of education degree in primary teaching from AUT but found getting a job was not easy.

"I applied for at least 40 to 50 jobs, all with 'Unfortunately, you have not been successful'," she said.

After months of disappointments, Miss Sullings Tasi decided to start applying for overseas teaching positions.

She left for South Korea last week and is now teaching new entrants at a school in Gangnam, Seoul.

Ms Davies said demand was still high for teachers of secondary school specialist subjects such as maths, physics, and for highly qualified teachers who spoke te reo Maori.

The chief executive of the Child Forum ECE Network, Dr Sarah Farquhar, said early childhood centres were being flooded with applicants wanting jobs.

"Two or three years ago, we could pick and choose where to work. Now it's the complete reverse.

"We came from a job market where it was in the employees' favour. But nowadays, it's changing to be in the employers' favour."

For several years Immigration NZ listed secondary school and early childhood teaching in its long-term skill shortage list.

But both were removed from the list last November.

- NZ Herald

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