The Government has cut back a plan by former education minister Nikki Kaye to pay a bonus of up to $17,500 to all beginning teachers who work in any Auckland school for at least three years.
The centrepiece of a minimal $9.5 million package to tackle the teacher shortage, announced today, is extending the grant through the voluntary bonding scheme for beginning teachers to Auckland schools in deciles 2 and 3 only, but with the maximum cut to $10,500.
The bonus currently applies only in decile 1 and isolated schools. Kaye had planned to extend it to all Auckland schools, at a cost which Education Minister Chris Hipkins said would have been $37.5m a year.
He said that would have created a $37.5m "hole" in the education budget.
The one-off extension of the scheme will pay $10,500 to beginning teachers who start work in 2018 only in Auckland schools in deciles 2 and 3 and stay for at least three years.
It will also apply, again just $10,500 and for teachers starting in 2018 only, to all beginning teachers nationally in science, technology, maths and te reo Māori, and to all beginning teachers in Māori-language schools.
Hipkins said he was limiting the grant to $10,500 for teachers in the wider categories "to preserve the advantage the decile 1 schools currently have from the scheme".
Principals in Auckland decile 1 schools have expressed concern that they would not be able to recruit teachers if they could not offer anything better than other schools.
The package also provides for
• 35 extra places on the Teach First scheme for secondary teachers to train on the job in low-decile schools in 2019. (The 2018 intake have already started their pre-employment training).
• Expanding the Auckland Beginner Teacher Project from 40 places to 60 for 2018. The scheme pays schools to employ beginning teachers before their rolls grow enough to justify an extra teacher, but only 18 schools so far have applied to use it next year.
• Paying the cost of refresher courses in the first half of 2018 only for teachers who have not obtained full registration six years after training. These courses cost $1490 on the job or $2490 in classrooms.
• A $1m fund that schools can apply to, in the remainder of this financial year only, to top up wages for non-registered teachers in specialised subjects such as trades and music.
• A $1m social media campaign to inform newly graduated teachers about the changes and to encourage teachers whose registrations have lapsed to return to teaching in 2018.
Hipkins also announced that education agencies have agreed on a fast-track process to approve teacher registration within 10 days and at no cost for teachers with approved qualifications from Britain, Ireland, Canada and Fiji.
He has asked education and immigration agencies to report back by next June on concerns that the current immigration system, which gives extra points for migrants settling outside Auckland, may be exacerbating the teacher shortage in Auckland.
The package will cost $3.7m in the current financial year and $4.3m in 2020-21, when beginning teachers who start teaching this year will qualify for the $10,500 grant if they are still teaching in low-decile Auckland schools, Māori-language schools or the specified subjects.
The only costs in other years will be less than $1m a year for the expanded Teach First scheme in 2019.
But the total cost of $9.5m over four years will be totally offset by cuts of $10m in teacher trainee scholarships, study awards, postgraduate teacher training and mentoring for new teachers, because of lower-than-expected demand for these funds.
Teacher trainee enrolments dropped by a third, from 14,235 in 2010 to 9500 in 2015, and the Cabinet paper on the new package says the decline accelerated to 39 per cent in the five years to 2016, implying that there were only 8300 trainees last year.
The paper says 20 per cent of all teachers are now aged 60 or over, with a further 22 per cent aged 50-59.
Secondary Principals Association president Mike Williams said the package was too late to have much impact next year and did nothing to encourage more trainees into teaching in the longer term.
"At this stage most secondary schools have the majority of their jobs filled. We have made our compromises. You don't go undoing the compromises and trying to recruit now, because there are just not the people out there," he said.
"If this is only for one year then it's not achieving a great deal. My concern would be, if it's only for one year, then it's not attracting people into the colleges of education where it might be more useful."
He said the only way to attract more trainees into teaching was to raise teachers' salaries.
Auckland Primary Principals Association president Kevin Bush said the package was "a good first step".
"If I'm absolutely honest, I think there is not a lot in it for Auckland schools at the moment," he said.
He said his association was still seeking further measures such as a relocation grant for teachers moving to Auckland from elsewhere in the country, and allowing schools to use their teacher salary funding to pay teacher aides to take classes if no teacher can be found.