A new postgraduate scheme would see training teachers complete their studies while immersed in a school environment – for free.
Twelve Auckland secondary schools have been working with the University of Waikato on a new model of teacher education.
Headmaster of Westlake Boys David Ferguson, a spokesman for the 12-strong group, says the graduate qualification will see students based at one of the schools for the academic year, while completing their studies remotely.
"Historically, training teachers have spent more time at university than at a school," he told the Herald.
"We are really excited about this new model of teacher education. It not only enables student teachers to be fully immersed in a school-based environment, but also provides them with access to mentoring from specialist teachers in their chosen subject area."
Most teacher trainees have to pay their own fees like any other university student, but there are some scholarships on offer for Māori and Pacific students studying teaching.
Waikato University Pro Vice-Chancellor of Education, Professor Don Klinger, says the university is delighted to work with the schools to attract future teachers and address critical teacher shortages in secondary schools
"This unique opportunity uses our recently approved graduate and post-graduate diploma programmes," he said.
"It provides an enriched school context for a cohort of students to be immersed in while completing their teacher education programme."
Trainee teachers will have their course fees covered by the school they spend the year at, with the goal of offering the newly-qualified teachers a job once their study is completed.
Ferguson said students would be offered a small stipend during the year to support expenses and if a job becomes available, would stay at the school for a minimum of two years.
"And if there's no job available, they've earned the qualification anyway," he said.
It's hoped between one and three students will join each of the 12 schools in the pilot scheme, beginning next year.
The 12-strong group of schools include a range of co-ed, single sex, public and independent schools:
• Auckland Grammar School
• Baradene College of the Sacred Heart
• Diocesan School for Girls
• Macleans College
• Massey High School
• Mount Albert Grammar School
• Rangitoto College
• Sacred Heart College
• St Cuthbert's College
• St Peter's College
• Westlake Boys High School
• Westlake Girls High School
Investing in and getting the best possible teachers into the classroom was something all schools would be familiar with, Ferguson said.
"We're really interested in people who are changing careers, as well as graduates," he said.
"There is the potential for people who have done something else, but always had teaching at the back of their mind and thought about moving into teaching, but were unsure that could happen."
On top of their year of immersive learning, students will attend a day of learning at each of the 12 schools on different subjects, such as building a positive classroom environment, or assessments, as well as the opportunity of a further five-week placement at one of the other schools involved.
Students who successfully complete the qualification will gain a post-graduate or post-graduate diploma in teaching at the end of 2021.
Anyone interested in being part of this programme should contact one of the schools directly.
Immersive learning would build confidence: St Cuthbert's teacher
St Cuthbert's technology teacher Michael Zhang says the full immersion that the scheme offers students would make them feel more confident in taking on a teaching role.
Zhang, who has been teaching for five years this year, completed his postgraduate diploma in teaching at the University of Auckland.
"At the University of Auckland we had two practicums, in semester one and two so you'd get 12 weeks inside a school in your year of study," he told the Herald.
"Even with the 12 weeks, we always felt at the end of it: 'Am I ready for school?' I was competent to teach a class, but not confident in teaching multiple classes.
"This would be immersion as opposed to two practicums, so you'd get a greater breadth of knowledge of what a school is like, because you're stationed there."
With the schools covering the cost of fees for students, it would take away the financial stress some that might be holding back some people from switching careers, Zhang said.