James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Teacher shortage looms

Growing school rolls and rise in retirements likely to lift job prospects for graduates

Gemma Humphreys has finally found work as a teacher in Mt Eden. Photo / Natalie Slade
Gemma Humphreys has finally found work as a teacher in Mt Eden. Photo / Natalie Slade

A higher birth rate and an ageing workforce mean hundreds of teachers could be needed to meet a staff shortage as school rolls surge over the next decade, figures show.

Professor Roger Moltzen of the University of Waikato said Ministry of Education figures showed primary school enrolments would increase steadily until 2019, when there would be 44,500 more students than in 2011.

The Faculty of Education dean said teaching students who began their studies in 2013 were likely to have much improved job prospects by the time they graduated at the end of 2015.

"We anticipate that New Zealand could actually be facing a teacher shortage in the next few years because of the staffing required to cope with the student increase," said Professor Moltzen.

He said New Zealand was at the end of a trend of falling school rolls in which many teaching graduates struggled to find work. The country had also seen a boost in births.

This, coupled with an ageing teaching workforce and people leaving the industry, mean an additional 1150 primary teachers will be needed to cope with the increased enrolments, based on an average class size of 27.

Secondary school student numbers will also start growing about 2019 and rise steadily until they reach a peak in 2024 - with about 22,000 more students in the system than last year.

Post Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff said more than 2000 secondary teachers would be needed to meet the increase in demand by 2019.

Secondary teaching was counter-cyclical to the economy so when things weren't good teachers stayed in their jobs, others came back to the profession or trained to get into it.

When the economy improved teacher supply became difficult as many secondary teachers could find other employment outside teaching.

There was a large "and growing" number of secondary teachers approaching, at or beyond retirement age with demographic data putting that figure at about 6000 at the start of 2012.

"When the economic pressures subside this will lead to a significant increase in the number of extra [new] teachers we have to find each year."

Di Davies, TeachNZ manager at the Ministry of Education, said the ministry undertook rigorous and sophisticated forecasting to predict teacher supply and demand in coming years.

Uphill struggle to find jobs in schools

Gemma Humphreys considers herself lucky that she's found a teaching job - after nine months of looking.

The 29-year-old graduated from Teachers College last October and applied for eight jobs before success at Auckland Normal Intermediate.

Ms Humphreys said news that school rolls could surge was good, especially for friends seeking jobs.

"A lot of them have relieving work, they're really disheartened, especially after all the effort we put in. I applied for eight jobs and had three interviews but I have friends who have applied for 50 or 100 jobs and had no luck, not even an interview."

The numbers

44,500 more pupils will be enrolled at primary schools by 2019 than in 2011

22,000 more secondary school pupils by 2024 than in 2011

14 per cent the number of teachers aged 60-plus now

- NZ Herald

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