The number of teachers training in the Bay of Plenty has plummeted over the last decade, as the number of entry-level job opportunities hits a new high.
Ministry of Education figures provided to the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act show the number of domestic students studying an initial teacher education qualification (ITE) in the Bay of Plenty has dropped by almost half over the past nine years.
In 2009, there were 525 students studying towards the qualification in the Bay. By 2018 that number had dropped to 275.
Nationally the number of trainees increased 12 per cent between 2016 and 2018 from 3835 to 4300. However, the number of trainees in 2018 was still 58 per cent lower than in 2009 when 6820 people were studying for a teaching qualification.
At the same time, the number of people gaining entry-level teaching jobs in the Bay gradually declined - until 2017, when the trend started to reverse.
The number of teachers starting their careers in the region went from 26 in 2016 to 57 in 2018 - an eight-year high.
University of Waikato pro-Vice Chancellor for education Don A. Klinger said he had noted both a drop in applications for teaching courses and an increase in the number of job vacancies, especially in specific areas such as secondary maths and science.
"I previously worked in Canada and I do not recall having witnessed anything near the decreases in the numbers of applicants for teaching programmes seen in New Zealand."
He said the university was working hard to build up trainee numbers.
Klinger said the new Tauranga campus was a prime example of the effort the university was putting into trying to attract students to the course, as teaching was the largest programme there.
He put the current situation down to a profession that had "been unfairly under the gun".
The lack of trainee teachers raised recruitment concerns for some local principals.
Otumoetai Primary School principal Zara McIndoe said the drop in students studying teaching was definitely being felt on a local level and principals across the Bay had reported a reduction in people applying for positions.
She said this was putting pressure on principals to make sure vacancies were filled by quality teachers despite a small pool of applicants.
Pāpāmoa Primary School principal Phil Friar said the number of applications for each vacancy had dropped significantly over the years.
He said the situation meant entry-level teachers had a better shot at getting positions straight out of university.
The school currently had a number of positions available.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said almost $95 million was budgeted to address the teacher shortage, which included scholarships contributing for trainee teachers and living costs for students to incentivise them into the profession.
Regan Thomas, who is studying primary teaching at the University of Waikato's Tauranga campus, said one of his main drives to study teaching was the shortage, which meant there was almost "a guaranteed job at the end of the degree".
He believed interest in the profession had dwindled due to the "turmoil in the sector", evidenced by the ongoing union strikes and teachers expressing unhappiness with their jobs.
On the other side of the coin, Pāpāmoa resident Amy Roper got halfway through a teaching degree in Auckland before dropping it when the profession started to seem less attractive.
This was partly down to the state of the sector and the extensive "coverage on how burnt-out teachers are", she said.
Craig Jones is the deputy secretary of evidence, data and knowledge at the Ministry of Education.
Jones said that while the Bay of Plenty's trainee numbers were small, it was normal for numbers to vary between institutions, depending on local circumstances and student demand.
However, nationally, the number of people entering teacher training for the first time was starting to increase, he said.
He said people did not always take up jobs in the region where they studied, and the numbers were good for graduates getting full-time permanent jobs in the Bay of Plenty.
Teacher trainees numbers in the Bay of Plenty, 2009-2018
In 2009 there were 525 students studying an initial teacher education qualification in the Bay of Plenty. Of those there are
- 250 early childhood education
- 205 primary
- 75 secondary
In 2018 there were 275 students studying an initial teacher education qualification in the Bay of Plenty. Of those there are
- 100 early childhood education
- 140 in primary
- 35 in secondary
Source: Ministry of Education