One in every 10 primary and intermediate schools is still short of at least one teacher, the teachers' union says.

The result is an apparent improvement from the union's last survey last September, which found that 52 per cent of principals said they did not have all the teachers they needed.

But NZ Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick said the survey still meant that between 1250 and 2500 of the country's 520,000 primary and intermediate school students did not have their own teachers.

"Whilst it is an improvement on the September figures, 10 per cent of schools still looking for one or two teachers is concerning. That equates to 1250-2500 young people that will be without fulltime teachers," he said.

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"I'm confident, however, that my colleagues will be managing this by putting senior staff into classrooms, specialist programmes will be put on hold and in some cases principals will be forced into abandoning their leadership work to cover classes.

"These sorts of arrangements are not ideal and will just mask the teacher supply issues many schools are facing."

Whetu Cormick estimates that 1250 to 2500 primary and intermediate school children don't have a stable classroom teacher. Photo / File
Whetu Cormick estimates that 1250 to 2500 primary and intermediate school children don't have a stable classroom teacher. Photo / File

The latest figure was buried at the bottom of a press release by the primary teachers' union, the NZ Educational Institute, about a 2018 survey of principals' long working hours and stress.

"An NZEI phone survey of 500 principals in the first two weeks of term [this year] found that 10 per cent of schools were short one or two teachers," it said.

"[Also] 69.3 per cent of principals considered that it would be difficult or very difficult to find suitable relieving staff this year."

In the September survey of 707 principals, 52 per cent said they did not have all the teaching staff they needed, and 90 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that it was "easy to find suitable relieving staff this term".

The apparent improvement this year may be largely due to the different survey methods. The September survey was an email sent to all 2000-odd primary and intermediate principals, so the 707 who returned the email might have been mainly those with the worst problems.

The latest survey was a phone survey of a random sample of schools, so it may be a better measure of the true situation.

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However it is also possible that the true situation has improved slightly because of an overseas recruitment campaign which has placed 239 teachers into schools this year, a fee waiver on refresher courses for trained teachers who have not yet registered, $10,000 grants for schools to employ beginner teachers, and a slight recovery in teacher trainees.

A Herald analysis of vacancies in the Education Gazette found that 15 per cent of Auckland schools listed vacancies at the start of this year, down slightly from 19 per cent at the same time last year.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart says the teacher shortage is as bad as ever, despite an NZEI finding that only one in 10 primary and intermediate schools are short of at least one teacher. Photo / File
NZEI president Lynda Stuart says the teacher shortage is as bad as ever, despite an NZEI finding that only one in 10 primary and intermediate schools are short of at least one teacher. Photo / File

NZEI president Lynda Stuart said she did not believe the true situation was any better.

"I'm not sure that I'd say it's an improvement, that's not the feeling that I'm getting," she said.

"There are a whole lot of things that will actually contribute to alleviating the situation, but at the end of the day we know that there are things that we need to change within the system as a whole."

The union returns to talks with the Ministry of Education tomorrow over its claim for a 16 per cent pay rise over two years. The ministry has offered 9 per cent over three years for most teachers, plus an extra step that would give the top third of teachers a pay rise of 12.6 per cent.

Helen Varney says the teacher shortage means that many primary school children are missing out on stable relationships with a classroom teacher. Photo / File
Helen Varney says the teacher shortage means that many primary school children are missing out on stable relationships with a classroom teacher. Photo / File

Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Helen Varney said 10 per cent of schools still short of teachers was "still not acceptable".

"We know that the greatest impact on learning is the relationship between student and child. Growing a meaningful relationship with learners is vital," she said.

"If 10 per cent of our schools don't have the teachers our learners need then this impacts learning and these important relationships.

"Principals are problem solvers and they will have managed the shortfall by making classes bigger or putting senior leaders in classrooms or cutting supplementary learning support or teaching themselves.

"These short-term solutions are temporary fixes and make for a range of changes that are not always beneficial for our learners."

Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said recruiters were still working to fill 254 teaching roles.

"Our work to increase the supply of NZ trained teachers includes 82 Kiwis receiving the Overseas Relocation Grant to help them return home to teach here," she said.

"Over 1200 teachers have enrolled in the Government paid for Teacher Education Refresh programme and nearly 80 Teach First NZ participants are starting in schools.

"The overseas recruitment campaign has resulted in more than 1000 qualified overseas teachers being screened and made available to principals for immediate interview. Of these, 239 have so far accepted roles.

"We are confident that there are sufficient quality candidates ready and waiting to be considered for the remaining lodged roles with our recruiters."