One in five Auckland primary schools expects to start next year without enough teachers, a new survey has found.

The survey by the teachers' union the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) has found that 14 per cent of primary and intermediate schools nationally, and 19 per cent in Auckland, expect to be short of one or two teachers at the start of next year.

Two further schools, both in Auckland, expect to be three or four teachers short, taking the Auckland total with unfilled vacancies to 20 per cent.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins met with the Auckland Primary Principals Association (APPA) executive in Auckland on Friday and a spokesman said he would announce a package of measures to tackle the crisis "very soon".

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The Education Council, which governs teacher registration, is already acting to lure back former teachers who have left to have children or for other reasons.

"The Education Council has been proactively contacting teachers whose provisional practising certificates are soon to expire or recently expired to check their eligibility for a programme we are running to help more provisionally certificated teachers move to a full practising certificate, thereby staying in the profession," said spokesman Martin Deakin.

Te Hihi School principal Kevin Bush says principals will use more flexible schemes for teachers returning to the workforce and want to use teacher aides to fill in for missing teachers. Photo / File
Te Hihi School principal Kevin Bush says principals will use more flexible schemes for teachers returning to the workforce and want to use teacher aides to fill in for missing teachers. Photo / File

APPA president Kevin Bush said the council and the Ministry of Education were telling principals they could employ teachers who were only provisionally certified but have been out of teaching for more than six years.

These teachers have been required to do refresher courses which previously cost about $4000. But the standard cost has been cut to $2495, and a $1790 "fast-track" option has been created for teachers who do the courses online while employed in schools.

"Once it gets out there, and there is a flier going out to schools before Christmas, that will help to provide strategies that principals can use," Bush said.

The NZEI survey has actually found a lower rate of expected vacancies at the start of next year than an APPA survey in July, which found that more than half of Auckland primary schools were three or four teachers short.

But principals said this was only because of newly trained teachers entering the workforce at the end of each year. They said the shortage was still desperate.

Shirley Maihi of Manurewa's Finlayson Park School says the last time the teacher shortage was this bad was in 1991-92. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Shirley Maihi of Manurewa's Finlayson Park School says the last time the teacher shortage was this bad was in 1991-92. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Finlayson Park School principal Shirley Maihi, who is still short of a teacher offering te reo Māori for the school's bilingual unit, said the last time it was so hard to get teachers was in 1991-92 when numbers in teacher training plummeted.

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Trainee numbers have dropped by a third again recently, from 14,235 in 2010 to 9500 in 2015.

She has lost three teachers moving out of Auckland this year.

"They can't buy a house," she said. "Two of them are with partners and can't afford to buy a house, so they have gone elsewhere down the country."

Bush said he hoped Hipkins' package would give schools flexibility to use teacher aides where they couldn't find teachers.

"We had one school at the start of this year that had two teachers and a teacher aide covering three classes," he said.

Lynda Stuart says schools are cutting teacher aides' hours because the school operations grant has not kept up with costs. Photo / Supplied
Lynda Stuart says schools are cutting teacher aides' hours because the school operations grant has not kept up with costs. Photo / Supplied

However the NZEI survey also found that 44 per cent of schools nationally, and 35 per cent in Auckland, plan to cut teacher aide hours next year because of a budget squeeze.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart said a 1.3 per cent increase in the operations grant in this year's Budget was not enough to make up for a freeze in the grant last year.

The survey found that 19 per cent of schools plan to cut teacher aide hours by up to 10 per cent, 17 per cent will cut them by 11-20 per cent and 18 per cent will cut them by more than 20 per cent. Some are cutting hours only because needy students are moving on, rather than for budgetary reasons.

A surprisingly high 82 per cent of schools said they planned to accept the new Government's offer of $150 per student per year to schools that don't ask parents for "donations". A spokesman for Hipkins said this measure would be "considered for the 2018 Budget", meaning it is unlikely to be available until the 2019 school year.