A planned new on-the-job teacher training scheme has been delayed by a year as New Zealand's teacher shortage evaporates.
The latest Ministry of Education projections, released at 11am, show that the supply of primary teachers is expected to fully meet the demand this year and out to 2023, both nationally and in Auckland.
The shortfall of secondary teachers, which was expected to be 1750 by 2023 when the ministry's first projections were published in 2018, is now expected to be only 100, as New Zealanders come home from a Covid-ravaged world to retrain in teaching.
The Government has postponed a proposal, announced in 2019, to start a new on-the-job training scheme for 80 new secondary teachers a year from this year.
A notice on the government tenders site says the scheme, which was due to go to tender in the September quarter of last year, is still "awaiting approval".
Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the scheme will now start next year "and must have a focus on subjects and sectors facing teacher supply pressures such as the Māori medium sector, te reo Māori and STEM [science, technology, engineering, maths] subjects".
"It is expected that contracts will be confirmed early 2021, with the first students commencing the employment-based programmes no later than the beginning of 2022," she said.
"The start date of the new secondary EBITE ((Employment-based initial teacher education) programmes has been impacted as the wider education sector responded to Covid-19; we knew it was important that we took the time to collaborate and work with providers in this new programme."
Auckland University education dean Professor Mark Barrow, who chairs the national Council of Deans of Education, said any new programme would need Teaching Council approval and "would be struggling to get something going" even by next year.
The dramatic turnaround has been caused by several factors, all related to the global coronavirus pandemic:
• The demand for teachers, especially in high-decile secondary schools, has been slashed by the closure of New Zealand's border, which has stopped overseas students entering the country since last March.
• The supply of teachers was boosted before the pandemic by a drive to recruit several thousand teachers from overseas.
• Although the border closure stopped overseas recruitment, the supply of teachers has been further boosted by New Zealanders returning from Covid-hit countries to either return to teaching here or to train in teaching.
Canterbury University education dean Professor Letitia Fickel said many Kiwis who were teaching English overseas have come home to train as mainstream teachers.
She also sees a dramatic leap in career-switchers whose high-tech jobs overseas have disappeared and who have come home to train in teaching - potentially relieving New Zealand's chronic shortage of teachers in maths, science and technology.
Canterbury's one-year post-graduate secondary teacher training enrolments have jumped from about 100 last year to 160, including a leap from about 20 to about 50 in maths, science and technology.
Barrow said Auckland's one-year post-graduate numbers have doubled overall, from 110 to 220 for primary teaching and from 150 to 280 in secondary. He does not yet have numbers for maths and science specialists.
"They are amazing figures, but in both cases, for reasons we don't really understand, 2020 was a low year," he said.
"So we are back at the same sort of numbers as in 2017 and 2018."
He said total numbers are up by about 15 per cent at Waikato, Massey and Victoria Universities.
The ministry projections continue to show growth in secondary student numbers offset by a slight decline in primary numbers out to 2026, as a small "baby blip" of children born around 2008-2009 move through the secondary system.
The demand for secondary teachers is expected to grow nationally from 27,140 this year to 28,650 by 2025, before starting to fall back to 28,540 in 2026.
In Auckland the demand is projected to grow from 7870 to 8330 before falling back to 8280.
However these numbers are all lower than the previous projections in 2019 because overseas students are not expected to start arriving again until next year, "returning to 2019 levels by 2025".
On the other hand the supply of teachers has been boosted by returning New Zealanders and fewer teachers leaving the country, so the shortfall of secondary teachers by 2023 has been slashed from 1750 to 100 nationally, and from 680 to 60 in Auckland.
The supply of primary teachers is projected to exactly equal the demand, both nationally and in Auckland, this year and in both the next two years.