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

New rule shuts door on valued teacher

A highly experienced maths and physics teacher has been ordered out of the classroom despite a dire shortage of teachers in his specialist subjects.

British physicist Richard Longley was stopped from relief teaching a week into the new school year, because he had exceeded the six-year limit for a provisional registration.

The 60-year-old has never worked in one job long enough to qualify for full registration in New Zealand because he only wants to relief teach.

Longley said he was astonished by the attitude of the Education Council in ordering him to stop teaching six classes of maths at Epsom Girls Grammar School with no notice.

Longley said he and staff at the school implored the council to grant an exemption but it insisted the only way he could continue teaching was to undertake a $4000 15-week teacher refresher course in October.

However, Longley argued the programme largely catered for teachers returning to the profession.

Secondary Principals' Association of NZ president Sandy Pasley said principals were desperate to stem the shortage of maths and physics teachers and losing a relief teacher in those subjects added to the "critical" situation.

"I think there needs to be a solution for him if he's a highly qualified, skilled teacher ... There must be some way that we can make sure we are taking advantage of people like that and not making it difficult for them."

Longley is one of 686 relief teachers affected by a new system introduced in July last year, before which a relief teacher only needed to make an application and pay a fee to continue teaching.

Longley complained to the Education Council, Education Minister Hekia Parata and the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman said it could not make a judgment on the situation and the minister's office forwarded the complaint to the council.

Council chief executive Dr Graham Stoop told Longley the teacher refresher initiative had the backing of sector leaders.

"It is a way of assuring the community that teachers, including relieving teachers, are current in their practice and in their understanding of the curriculum."

However, just last week the council admitted it was pulling together a team to address "with urgency" the role of the refresher course for relief teachers and itinerant music teachers.

"The system works for most teachers but there are some it doesn't work for, and we acknowledge that."

- NZ Herald

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