Education groups are asking the next Government to write off student loan debts for teachers who work in areas of teacher shortages such as Auckland for three years.
The NZ Principals Federation, Auckland Primary Principals, Waitakere Area Principals and NZ Educational Institute have issued a 10-point plan which they say would "turn around the Auckland teacher crisis".
Five of the points, unveiled at Fruitvale School in New Lynn today, aim to directly tackle the teacher shortage by:
• Writing off student loans of teachers who commit to placement in Auckland schools and other hard to staff areas for three years,
• Reducing class sizes in low decile schools by 2020,
• Reducing time spent on "over-assessing children" to meet national standards,
• Lifting teacher pay,
• Investigate making affordable housing for key public sector employees a priority in Auckland housing projects,
The other five points would improve services for children with special needs by:
• Giving children with mental health needs access to school High Health Needs (HHN) funding, which currently excludes children with "a mental health condition whose behaviour needs to be managed for their safety and that of others",
• Raising the notional hourly rate used for Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) and HHN funding - which has not changed in eight years - to $19 an hour. (Current rates are $19.25 an hour for schools of up to 100 students but only $18.47 an hour for larger schools),
• Increasing the budget for Learning Support (special needs) by at least 10 per cent "to make up for nine years of a staffing freeze",
• Funding special needs co-ordinators (Sencos) in every school,
• Paying the "living wage" (currently $20.20 an hour) to teacher aides and other support staff by 2019.
Auckland primary principals have said that more than half of the region's primary schools had at least three staff vacancies at the start of this term, largely because high housing costs are driving teachers out of the city.
Education Minister Nikki Kaye decided last month to extend a voluntary bonding scheme, which currently pays up to $17,500 to beginner teachers who stay at least five years in decile 1 schools, to all Auckland schools from next year.
But the median student loan of people graduating with bachelor's degrees in 2014 was $29,610 and the median repayment time was 8.9 years, so many Auckland teachers who have been teaching for more than five years are still likely to have outstanding student loans.
NZ Educational Institute president Lynda Stuart said the four education groups did not expect that all of teachers' student loans could be written off, but they wanted more than Kaye has offered.
"Obviously there is going to have to be a limit on it, but it's that commitment to placement in schools," she said.
"When I started teaching, you were paid when you were at training college and then bonded for three years, and you were put anywhere in the country that was hard to staff."
The four groups wanted lower class sizes in low-decile schools because opening the voluntary bonding scheme up to all Auckland schools left no other incentive targeted at schools in the poorer areas, she said, which are harder to staff partly because few teachers live in those areas.
They also want a portion of new housing to be set aside as affordable housing for "key public sector employees" because pay for teachers and other key public sector groups has fallen behind some other groups over the past 30 years.