We have suspected it for a long time. But the survey undertaken by the Secondary Principals Association and the Post Primary Teachers Association confirms it and the extent. We have a teacher shortage that is reaching crisis point.
Fifty-six per cent of respondents in Auckland were experiencing problems finding staff, for some principals significant problems. It's less of a problem for the rest of the country with only 26 per cent outside of Auckland. Even finding relief teachers was a major problem. The PPTA believes official Ministry of Education vacancy figures do not show the true scale of the problem.
You would think then that recruiting and retaining teachers would be a priority for the government and educational authorities. Everyone working together to ensure we have the best teachers available to produce the best educational outcomes for our students. And when overseas trained teachers show an interest in coming to New Zealand to continue their teaching profession you would think we would welcome them and make their transition to our education system as seamless and stress free as possible.
Not so. If we can make things difficult you can bet we don't pass on it. I don't blame the two British teachers who have decided to leave New Zealand. The hoops they have had to jump through in the past year to get their teaching qualifications recognised by the mix of agencies in New Zealand has taken its toll and they're out of here. I'm sorry it should have come to this.
There are four agencies involved when overseas teachers apply to have their teaching qualifications recognised. Immigration New Zealand, the NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA), the Education Council and the teacher salary contractor Novopay. Each will be working to their own set of guidelines and rules. And overseas teachers must patiently work their way through each agency's requirements.
After attempting to provide what is required the two British teachers currently teaching in Auckland have called it quits out of frustration. When I read what each agency required them to produce to back their qualifications, and the costs they incurred, I wondered if we really wanted them here in the first place. Frustrate and delay, so in the end teachers look overseas again for teaching positions. Both are experienced teachers. One taught 12 years in Britain and eight years in Spain, Singapore, Taiwan and the Middle East. Teachers with that experience don't come along every day. The loss is ours.
Don't get me wrong. I support thorough checking of overseas qualifications. We don't want impostors coming into our classrooms. We have enough of those getting past our medical authorities to work in our health system. That's scary. But we should ensure all teachers who apply to come and work in New Zealand are made aware of exactly what our educational authorities require of them. Let them know the extent of the paper work and documentation required. It appears to be a lot more than what other countries insist on and I can't understand why that would be. They should also be informed that we operate under "New Zealand time" and delays of many months can be expected.
A Ministry of Education spokesperson says "the current system has caused frustration and needs improving". I wonder how long they've been saying that. And when are they going to make the improvements?
Too late for the two teachers who obviously have a number of teaching options overseas open to them. These experienced teachers wanted to teach here. We needed their experience, enthusiasm and passion for the job. The principals who hired them must be feeling exasperated. Will they recruit overseas teachers again? Possibly not now that they have experienced and seen what the teachers have gone through.
This may not be every overseas teacher's experience with New Zealand's educational authorities. Let's hope not. But one frustrated teacher heading back overseas is one too many.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua Lakes Council councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.