Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Preschool upset male teacher has to leave NZ

Kristopher McGinnis.
Kristopher McGinnis.

A Scottish Rudolf Steiner preschool teacher has been denied another temporary work visa by Immigration New Zealand because he is taking the job of a New Zealander.

But Kristopher McGinnis is in the 2 per cent of male early childhood education (ECE) teachers in the entire country - as "rare as hen's teeth" to find. And despite his principal making an appeal to Immigration for Mr McGinnis to stay, it indicated he would not be successful.

Mr McGinnis, who finished at Kowhai Childcare at Hamilton's Waikato Waldorf School last week, will return to Glasgow today despite desperately wanting to stay in New Zealand.

"I'm gutted. I love it here," he said.

The 30-year-old Scottish-trained ECE teacher arrived in 2012 on a working holiday visa and took up an "unqualified position" with Kowhai Childcare soon after.

His qualification is not recognised here because British-trained early learning teachers focus on 3 to 8-year-olds. In New Zealand the focus is on 0 to 6-year-olds. Mr McGinnis would have to complete a bridging course, usually about a year long, to be qualified in New Zealand but he said the study was too expensive.

Generally visas for "low-skilled" jobs are usually given for only 12 months at a time, which meant Mr McGinnis had to reapply to Immigration each year for a temporary work visa, and despite being approved last year he was told this month he would not be successful this time.

Hamilton's Rudolf Steiner Early Childhood Community principal Carol Webb said staff, parents and children at Kowhai Childcare, where Mr McGinnis looked after 6-month-olds through to 2-year-olds, were extremely disappointed he had to leave.

"It's a real gift to have a male in our centre, and we have a lack of males and they're a real positive influence for the children," Ms Webb said.

"He's done a great job. He's really nurturing. He's always really present for the children and is a great balance to have in a childcare centre which is predominantly women. The children just love him and he's just got a real natural disposition that makes the children flock to him."

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said about 1200 ECE graduates were unable to find jobs in the industry last year.

However, he said qualified male teachers in early childhood education were "as rare as hen's teeth".

"It is between 1 and 2 per cent of the teaching population. It is the next most gender-biased profession in New Zealand to being a nun," Mr Reynolds said. "So we do want to attract more men into ECE teaching."

Immigration said it was not satisfied there were no New Zealanders available or able to be trained for Mr McGinnis' job.

Spokeswoman Rachel Purdom said immigration policy allowed overseas workers to fill jobs when no New Zealanders were available or when there were particular skill shortages. She said there was no evidence that Mr McGinnis' employer had advertised his position, which they had done last year.

"By its very nature, a temporary work visa does not guarantee the right to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. If a suitable citizen or resident is available for the position, or could be readily trained to fill the position, then a work visa will not be granted."

- NZ Herald

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