A new $5000 relocation grant is proving a "massive incentive" for agencies recruiting overseas teachers, as schools reopen after the summer holidays this week.

Applications opened last week for the grant, which pays up to $5000 for overseas teachers and up to $7000 for expatriate Kiwi teachers to take up teaching jobs in hard-to-staff subjects or regions in New Zealand from January 1.

Garrett O'Dowd, founder of Irish-based recruitment company Teach and Explore, said the grant would be "a massive incentive".

"Last year was our first year recruiting into New Zealand and we recruited 15, but this year we will go a lot more with 120 applicants," he said.

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Stuart Birch of Wellington-based Education Personnel said he also started getting enquiries within days of the new grants being announced by former Education Minister Nikki Kaye last August.

"There is definitely increased interest from both overseas and Kiwi teachers since the overseas relocation grants were announced," he said.

"These grants are only paid out once teachers have worked a term, so no grants have been paid out yet, but it's really sparked interest."

Many schools have looked overseas to fill gaps in the teaching workforce this year. The new term officially starts today, although some schools won't open until tomorrow or Wednesday.

The NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) said 350 foreign teachers applied for recognition of their qualifications in the last half of last year, up from 256 in the same period the previous year.

There were big jumps in applications from South Africa (up 47 to 74), Canada (up 10 to 23) and Ireland (up 8 to 12).

Applications from Britain dropped slightly from 83 to 74 after NZQA pre-approved all applicants with specified qualifications from Britain, Ireland, Canada, South Africa and Fiji from November 24.

A 24-year-old Irish teacher said she heard about New Zealand's teacher shortage through Teach and Explore's Facebook page last February, and arrived last October on a one-year working-holiday visa.

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She found the other staff at her Auckland school "very nice" and was delighted to find they included three other Irish teachers.

"I'm loving it," she said.

"The kids don't complain as much. They are much tougher, much more independent and get on and do things by themselves."

Applications opened last week for a new $5000 relocation grant for overseas teachers and up to $7000 for expatriate Kiwi teachers to take up teaching jobs in hard-to-staff subjects or regions. Photo / 123RF
Applications opened last week for a new $5000 relocation grant for overseas teachers and up to $7000 for expatriate Kiwi teachers to take up teaching jobs in hard-to-staff subjects or regions. Photo / 123RF

However some overseas teachers say they are still put off by the registration process, which requires a visa from Immigration NZ, recognition of qualifications by NZQA, teacher registration by the Education Council and proof of experience to determine pay rates by Novopay.

British primary school teacher Joe Angus, 29, arrived last August with his wife and two young children. He secured a job to start this week at Prospect School in West Auckland, and got a work visa in November, but is still waiting for NZQA recognition of his qualifications.

"I made, I think, 14 or 15 phone calls to the same person asking them to send out a copy of a form, it was part of my application that they had to send out to me," he said.

In contrast, his sister, who is also a teacher, arrived in New Zealand after him but gained her teacher registration last week - apparently because of the new pre-approval system.

South African primary teacher Lucrezia Jivan, who arrived in Wellington in September with her husband and two children, said the pre-approval system only applied to intermediate and senior-phase teachers from South Africa, not to teachers like her with "foundation phase" training to teach Years 1 to 4.

She has had to pay a $746 fee to NZQA and faces paying a further $302 to the Education Council for registration.

"The Education Council also asks for actual forms showing where you did your practical [training placements]," she said.

"I mean, that is just over 10 years ago. Who has got that stuff? When you see that stuff you think, 'Gosh, I don't feel like doing this,' because it becomes demoralising."

The Government has budgeted $2 million to pay for only 100 relocation grants each year this year and next year, plus up to $3000 per job to cover schools' recruiting costs.

Teachers must secure full-time jobs in "shortage subjects and areas" for at least a year and must apply for the grant within three months of starting work. Half the grant will be paid after 10 weeks and the other half after 40 weeks of teaching.