A Northland principal who has received only five applications - all from overseas - for a science teacher position he advertised in December says he is supportive of plans to address the teacher shortage.

Grant Burns, principal of Tauraroa Area School, has been advertising for a secondary science and chemistry teacher since December and has received only five applications to date - three from South Africa, one from the UK and one from Canada.

"This is more difficult than usual. That's the first time we've struggled to get New Zealand applicants," he said.

"This is the smallest pool of candidates I've had for any position I've advertised. The school has a good reputation so we normally get plenty of applicants."

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According to the Ministry of Education there were 22 vacancies across 15 schools in Northland as at January 14.

Burns could not say if that was a lot of vacancies but said at the same time he advertised for a science teacher he also advertised for a new entrant teacher and received 15 applications.

He believed there were many reasons for the low number of applicants for the science teacher position.

"It's partly to do with market forces, demand is outstripping supply at the moment. Someone with a science degree has got very high income earning potential, not everyone with science qualifications wants to be a teacher or is suited to being a teacher," he said.

Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Ministry of Education deputy secretary of Early Learning and Student Achievement, said recruiters were actively working with these schools and had also screened almost 1000 qualified overseas teachers.

"Although 220 of these international teachers have already accepted roles at other schools, the remainder can be considered for lodged roles nationwide including in Tai Tokerau," she said.

Burns said usually schools have to pay international recruitment agencies to find staff. But the Ministry was making it easier by removing that process.

"They say we've noticed your vacancy and we've got these people on our books who might be suitable.

"It's helpful. We've got to do something. You need outstanding teachers in front of students.

"My preference is New Zealand raised, New Zealand trained teachers - but I'd rather have an outstanding overseas teacher than a poor New Zealand teacher or no teacher at all."