Schools say a new package to recruit more teachers is too late for the next school year and won't be able to attract the target of 900 overseas teachers.
The $10.5 million package, announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday, came on the eve of this year's final school term and as primary teachers are due to vote this week on whether to strike again next month in support of a 16 per cent pay claim aimed at reducing the teacher shortage.
Hipkins said the Ministry of Education estimated that 650 extra primary teachers and 200 extra secondary teachers would be needed in 2019.
The package provides for more relocation grants of up to $5000 for immigrants and $7000 for returning Kiwis, aimed at more than doubling the target for recruiting teachers from overseas in 2019 from 400 to 900.
It also includes a new $10,000 grant "to assist with mentoring and on-the-job training for graduate teachers", with funding for 230 grants.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the new grants "will be targeted where there are shortages of teachers in some subjects and locations".
However Auckland Secondary School Principals Association chairman Richard Dykes said eligibility criteria for the new grant would not be available until November, which would be too late to have much impact on recruitment for the new school year.
"It's great to see the Government doing something, but it's really frustrating that it's taken until this late in the year to do it, because the impact is going to be very limited," he said.
"It would have been extremely useful in July when I was busy trying to get skilled teachers to come into Auckland.
"To say I'm not going to find out about this until November is just not good enough, for goodness sake! It's too late."
The $10,000 grant for the new "National Beginner Teacher Project" is less than half a grant of $24,000 introduced by the previous National Government for the "Auckland Beginning Teacher Project", which aimed to fund a beginner teacher in Auckland primary schools for the first two terms until their rolls grew enough to justify the extra teaching positions through the normal staffing formula.
Primary school rolls normally grow during each year as children turn 5. In contrast, Dykes said secondary rolls normally fall during each year as older students leave school.
He said it was unclear whether the new scheme would apply to secondary schools, but the statement that it would apply to shortages in "some subjects" as well as locations implied that it would.
MacGregor-Reid said the new scheme would be in addition to the Auckland Beginning Teacher Project.
"We have already allocated all 60 places for the 2019 intake of the Auckland Beginning Teacher Project and there is no change to the level of the grant. There is further funding allocated for another 60 places in 2020," she said.
"We're still finalising the criteria for which regions and subjects the National Beginner Teacher Project will be targeted to, in particular we want to test criteria with representatives from the schooling system.
"We expect this criteria will be available in November. As we know supply is tight in some regions, we expect these grants will available to these areas."
Post Primary Teachers Association president Jack Boyle said he did not believe the ministry would achieve its new target of recruiting 900 teachers from overseas, when it had only approved 190 overseas relocation grants since they became available last December.
"They are not streaming in from all over," he said.
"Why? Because the pay and conditions of work are not sufficient for people to consider it as a career option."
However NZ Principals Federation president Whetu Cormick welcomed the package and said he had just returned from a principals' conference in Western Australia, where there was a surplus of teachers.
"Rather than just leaving it up to the recruitment agencies, we have connections to governments and organisations across the world," he said.
"We need to be ringing our contacts and saying, 'Hey, we have a job here, have you got anyone who could fill it?'"
Secondary Principals Association national president Mike Williams welcomed another part of the package that will fund schools to employ trades people and others without teacher registration under provisions for "limited authority to teach".
"It might be, for example, a qualified chef who is not teacher-trained so their teacher salary is really, really low, so the school is using units to keep them in the game," he said.
The package also expands 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.