The Government has more than doubled its target for recruiting overseas teachers to fill a shortfall of 850 teachers next year.
Only three weeks after the Ministry of Education announced a target of recruiting 400 overseas teachers by the start of next year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has raised the target for 2019 to 900.
He has allocated an extra $10.5 million, on top of $29.5m earmarked last December, for a package of measures including:
• More overseas relocation grants of up to $5000 for immigrants and $7000 for returning Kiwis, plus $3000 to cover the school's recruitment costs.
• A new grant to encourage schools to employ newly graduated NZ teachers. At present only 80 per cent of new graduates get teaching jobs despite the teacher shortage.
• Expanding the current short-term policy of free refresher courses for teachers returning to teach after an absence so it can also be used by overseas teachers to meet certification requirements with the Teaching Council. Teachers required to repeat or re-sit aspects of the programme will also have their fees waived.
• Changes to the criteria to enable more schools to appoint unregistered teachers as teachers with "limited authority to teach" in a specified subject or area.
• Additional funding for agencies to process more overseas teacher applications.
Hipkins said new analysis by the Ministry of Education showed that 650 extra primary teachers and 200 extra secondary teachers would be needed in 2019 to meet a rising level of demand, driven mainly by a forecast growth in the number of students in schools.
"We know that some schools and parents, particularly in the Auckland area but also in pockets around the country, are concerned that not enough teachers are coming into the system, and we are determined to pull out all the stops to meet next year's projected shortfall," he said.
"We're committing an extra $10.5 million, on top of the $29.5 million already announced since late last year, to ramp up teacher recruitment initiatives and increase funding for schools - bringing funding to $40 million this year to fill vacancies."
The new analysis created a much clearer picture of demand, Hipkins said.
"We can now work with schools with much greater certainty. Our immediate focus is to get sufficient quality teachers in place for the next school year. But longer-term workforce planning is already underway, and the analysis being refined will support this work to address what is expected to be a need for even more teachers in a few years' time," he said.
"We've also increased our overseas recruitment target for 2019 from 400 up to 900 and enlisted further recruitment agency support for schools. We're continuing to focus on bringing New Zealand-trained teachers home, while also looking for other teachers from countries with qualifications similar to ours.
"Last week Immigration NZ, working with the Education Ministry, directly emailed 6000 overseas teachers who've registered an interest in working here - to encourage them to take the next step. A social media campaign targeting this groups is also underway and a campaign targeting New Zealand-trained teachers working overseas will follow soon.
"The Education Ministry is working with the Teaching Council to improve the support available to overseas-trained teachers, including a focus on induction that builds the culturally responsive practices needed to work in New Zealand.
"The package also includes improvements to existing initiatives to make it easier for schools to recruit teaching staff locally, and to attract former teachers back to the profession. The Ministry will be actively promoting both the new and existing initiatives to principals, and Ministry-contracted recruiters will be doing the same."
Hipkins said the new initiatives aimed to increase teacher numbers by up to 1400 next year - more than the 850 believed to be needed
"We're taking this approach to create a buffer in case demand is higher than expected and/or some of the initiatives don't deliver the desired impact," he said.
"The ministry will release more information about the modelling in the near future, once sector groups have been fully briefed. We're releasing next year's planning assumptions now, because we want to get on with promoting the new and expanded recruitment initiatives so that schools and prospective teachers can get on with it."
Auckland is estimated to need 260 extra primary teachers and 130 extra secondary teachers in 2019.
"Further regional supply breakdowns are being considered," Hipkins said.
"The ministry needs to be sure the model produces reliable results for areas with small numbers of teachers. It is being told of demand pressures in other areas, for example: Southland, Queenstown/Wanaka are facing pressure for primary teachers and Northland and Tauranga for secondary teachers."
He said overseas recruitment would concentrate on "countries with teaching qualifications that are similar to ours".
"This means these teachers will mostly have their qualifications pre-approved, which speeds up things up. Those countries are: the UK, Ireland Canada, South Africa, Australia and Fiji."
Meanwhile 860 secondary and 1520 primary teacher trainees are expected to graduate this year.
"There has been a decline in the number of graduates in recent years, but indicative data from April 2018 records of enrolment show that more people are starting initial teacher education qualifications than the same time last year," he said.
"The Government is also looking at options to strengthen the Initial Teacher Education sector, including looking at ways to make teacher training more flexible so we can support a wider range of people with different sets of skills into the profession."