Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Law change for Teach First attacked

Hekia Parata has introduced a law change to keep the Teach First scheme on track. Photo / John Borren
Hekia Parata has introduced a law change to keep the Teach First scheme on track. Photo / John Borren

A law change to clear the way for a popular fast-track teaching scheme has been attacked by the NZEI education union.

The amendment to education legislation would let schools "cheaply hire an unqualified person in an unsupervised teaching role", the primary school union claims.

The Herald last month revealed the proposed change, which is being considered by the education select committee.

Its introduction by Education Minister Hekia Parata comes after the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) had taken legal action, which saw the Employment Relations Authority rule that the Teach First scheme had been breaking the law.

That was because it places selected graduates into teaching positions that are not advertised.

With the long-term future of the programme unclear, a crucial agreement was reached between the Ministry of Education, Teach First NZ, the University of Auckland and PPTA.

All parties agreed that Teach First NZ participants will now apply and be considered for jobs in schools alongside other teachers.

The PPTA's view is that agreement is now undermined by the introduction of the supplementary order paper, which it understands would change the proposed legislation to create a separate employment process for student teachers, meaning positions would not need to be advertised.

Now, the other major education union, the NZEI, has criticised the proposed law change as making no sense.

"Any teacher will tell you how daunting it is to teach a class just after graduating with a teaching qualification. It beggars belief that someone could hope to be an effective teacher with anything less," NZEI national president Louise Green said.

The Teach First NZ scheme attracts top university graduates and, after an intensive training programme, puts them in a paid teacher position in a low-decile secondary school for two years.

In its written submission to the education and science select committee, Teach First said it supported the general intent of the proposed amendment as it would support alternative pathways into teaching.

"This includes programmes such as Teach First NZ which involve people being employed by schools as trainee teachers to teach classes, unsupervised at times, while concurrently undertaking initial teacher education," the submission states.

"Creating multiple pathways into teaching is effective in broadening and improving the pool of talent entering the profession. In New Zealand's context, this specifically includes attracting more Maori and Pasifika people, more shortage subject specialists, and more men."

NZEI and Teach First NZ will appear before the education and science select committee tomorrow.

Ms Parata said the Teach First scheme had been very successful, and schools were saying they wanted to take people they could help train.

"The unions will have an opportunity to put their submissions to select committee, which is an open, public process."

Teach First

• Takes high-achieving university graduates for its on-the-job training programme.
• Begins with an intensive residential programme.
• Graduates then move in to low-decile schools. They are paid a full-time salary but have a maximum of 12 hours a week contact time with students. Mentoring is ongoing.
• Had 300 applications for its 20 places for 2016.

- NZ Herald

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