At least three Rotorua principals whose schools were eligible for a new teachers' incentive scheme launched in 2009 were unaware it existed until this week.

Aorangi School principal Debra Harrod said she had never heard of the scheme until Monday.

"The first I heard about it was in the Herald this morning."

Two other Rotorua principals contacted by the Rotorua Daily Post did not know about the funding for which beginning teachers in low-decile schools were eligible.

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Western Heights Primary School principal Brent Griffin said the school had been sent no specific information on the incentive, but it may have been included with ministry updates.

"There are quite a few ministry funds you can apply to ... it's not something we've ever used."

Beginning teachers who worked in eligible low-decile schools for at least three years after graduation were eligible for $3500 a year for up to five years.

The scheme was launched in 2009 by then-Education Minister Anne Tolley with a budget of $19 million for the first three years.

Ms Tolley said at the launch around 1800 teachers would be eligible in the first year.

Current Education Minister Nikki Kaye said in Parliamentary answers just 283 teachers received the payment in 2012 and 131 in 2015. Just $560,000 was spent on the scheme in 2015, down from $2.7 million in 2012.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart - who is also principal of an eligible school - said she was unaware of the scheme herself until she was contacted by an NZEI field officer about it.

The union rang a number of eligible schools and found all but one or two had never heard of the incentive scheme.

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Ms Harrod said although she had been principal of Aorangi School since 2012, and was deputy principal when the scheme was launched in 2009, she had never received any information about it.

The school became eligible for the incentives in 2015, according to information on the Ministry of Education website.

"I don't think we've had any teachers eligible in that time, and it's a good thing too because I would be very angry if we did and they missed out."

Sunset Primary School's principal, Niels Rasmussen, was also unaware of the scheme, despite the school's eligibility.

Wendy Mack, from the Rotorua School for Young Parents, said she had heard of the scheme and assumed the school would be on it due to its low decile rating, but did not know anything more about it.

The Ministry of Education lists nine schools in the wider Rotorua area as eligible for the scheme, although only five were in Rotorua itself.