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Erica Stanford with the words THE BULLETIN on the left
Erica Stanford

The BulletinMay 27, 2024

The plan to train – and retain – more teachers in New Zealand

Erica Stanford with the words THE BULLETIN on the left
Erica Stanford

A $53m budget boost will see 1,500 new teachers recruited over the next four years, writes Stewart Sowman-Lund in this extract from The Bulletin. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Another budget entree

We’ve finally made it to budget week, and the government’s first major challenge since the election. It may feel, as a few readers have emailed me to say, as though many of the budget’s secrets have already been released in the lead-up to May 30. It’s not unusual to have a number of pre-budget announcements, though there have been quite a few this year. As RNZ’s Giles Dexter explained, governments like to make a few early announcements in order to ensure the biggest few get their fair share of coverage (and, such as in the case of the first home grant decision, to make sure the bad press doesn’t dominate on budget day). But of the announcements made already, it would appear education is set to be a major winner in Budget 2024. Yesterday, more funding was unveiled.

1,200 new (paid) placements

Education minister Erica Stanford joined Jack Tame on Q+A yesterday morning where she revealed $53 million would be spent over the next four years to recruit and train 1,500 new teachers – or just under 400 every year. That money will fund 1,200 places for aspiring teachers to train in the classroom, along with a $20,000 package per placement to cover expenses and a tuition fees contribution. Writing for The Spinoff earlier this month, Shanti Mathias looked at the issue of unpaid work placements, noting that teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers and counsellors are all expected to complete work placements without pay as part of study. One concern raised by the union representing many of our teachers, NZEI, was that the $20,000 package was only available to those doing in-school programmes, reported RNZ. While they welcomed the move, the union’s president Mark Potter said it should “be extended to everyone training, regardless of whether their pathway is in-school or university”. Labour’s education spokesperson Jan Tinetti said the number of new teachers the government expected to recruit wasn’t enough, noting her government added more than 1,300 teachers in just over 12 months. On Morning Report today, Tinetti said the addition of a stipend could encourage students to move away from university training, which may lead to a drop-off in new enrolments for that pathway.

Ensuring we have enough teachers

If you Google “Australia teaching”, the first four links are sponsored articles enticing New Zealand teachers across the ditch for a job. In June last year, The Spinoff’s Shanti Mathias also reported on the hundreds of millions being spent by Australia to try and persuade our teachers to move. According to Mathias, the latest figures showed there were broadly enough teachers across the country, but there were some shortages for specialist subjects and in secondary schools. An RNZ report from December 2022 discussed a projected shortfall of teachers in 2025. Overseas teachers are key to ensuring we can fill vacancies. This new budget funding includes an extension to the overseas relocation grant, helping 300 more teachers move to New Zealand. There is also funding for 425 overseas finders fees packages for schools to assist with the costs of recruiting overseas teachers. RNZ’s John Gerritsen reported in 2022 that schemes like this had proven successful in luring new teachers to Aotearoa. In announcing this new budget boost, Stanford said recent estimates showed there could be a deficit of 680 secondary school teachers in three years. Asked (several times) by Tame on Q+A whether there would be a teacher shortage at the end of this parliamentary term, Stanford wouldn’t specifically say. But, she said, “my expectation is by the end of this term that we will not have what we’re seeing at the moment”. Jaime Lyth at the Herald reported last week on the recent uptick in winter illnesses and how that was having an impact on teacher numbers. On Q+A, Stanford acknowledged schools were struggling through, but believed action taken by her government would make an impact.

Education a key focus of Budget 2024

There have already been a handful of funding announcements in the education space this year, suggesting it’s a core focus for the government heading into the budget. In a pre-budget speech earlier in the month, prime minister Christopher Luxon said his government was making “big commitments” on the frontline of education and said $429m in savings had been found through reprioritisations. “Those education savings are dwarfed by the total increase in funding we are making to education in this year’s budget,” he said. We’ve covered off most of these in The Bulletin in recent weeks, such as the return of charter schools and a refreshed school in lunches scheme. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has proposed to cut a total of 755 positions, of which 316 are currently vacant. Writing for The Spinoff last week, high school teacher Alastair Crawford argued that there was a silver lining to these cuts – quality teachers back on the front line.

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