An end to job-hopping for beginning teachers?

June 2016


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Education Review looks at the NZEI Te Riu Roa’s new charter, which aims to prompt best practice when it comes to employing beginning teachers.

Earlier this year Stuff profiled new teacher Jacqui Holland, describing how she would typically go from school to school working 10-week chunks at a time, all the while looking to secure permanent full-time employment.

Holland’s predicament mirrors that of many other new teacher graduates. Ministry of Education figures confirm that just 15 per cent of new teacher graduates are getting permanent teaching jobs.

Upon completing their teaching qualifications, many look to enter the teaching workforce only to find a dearth of full-time employment available. With student loans weighing heavily on their shoulders, they are left with little choice but to take fixed-term contracts, relief teaching positions or part-time work at schools. Many spend years in employment of this variety, which can hinder their ability to achieve full certification as they are not receiving the appropriate mentoring and induction.

job hoppingIn answer to this, primary teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa has introduced The Beginning Teacher Charter and is encouraging schools to support the initiative.

“If we want great teachers for our children, teachers need to be well supported from the beginning of their career. Beginning teachers are the experienced senior teachers of the future – we need to look after them and support them,” says Louise Green, NZEI national president.

The charter has the support of the Education Council and New Zealand Principals’ Federation and NZEI reports “positive conversations” have also been held with the Ministry of Education.

Schools that sign the charter are publically declaring their commitment to providing permanent employment in all situations other than the exceptions outlined in the Employment Relations Act, such as replacing a permanent staff member who is absent on approved leave or undertaking a specific fixed-term project.

They are also committing to never employing new teachers on a trial or otherwise illegal fixed-term basis.

They are also agreeing to ensure that beginning teachers receive high-quality induction and mentoring as a critical part of their professional learning and development.

Signatory schools receive a certificate and window stickers to show they support beginning teachers.

“It sends a very strong, positive message to a school’s current and prospective teaching staff,” said Green.

Gladstone Primary in Auckland was the first school in New Zealand to sign up to the charter.

“For us it’s all about supporting new teachers into the profession,” says principal Dave Shadbolt. “If we don’t support them and show you’ve got confidence in them then we could end up losing them.”

As things stand, statistics show that over a third of teachers leave the profession in the first three years.

New teacher Rosalie Sinclair says it can be “very unsettling” to have to chop and change between schools at the beginning of your career. She is pleased to see the new charter in place.

“Obviously a permanent position is a lot more stable and not just a big one-year long trial,” she told the NZEI.

Green said the new charter was about creating a shift in practice and awareness, but the long-term answer to a lack of permanent jobs for new graduates depended on the Ministry of Education undertaking workforce planning, which was sorely needed.

The Ministry says it is well aware of the problem and working with the sector to find a solution.

Lisa Rodgers, deputy secretary for early learning and student achievement, says the Ministry has been meeting regularly over the last few months with principals and sector bodies. She says a range of potential solutions are being explored and some are being implemented.

The PPTA and the Ministry of Education established a Joint Working Group on Secondary Teacher Supply as part of the settlement of the Secondary Teachers’ Collective Agreement. While a similar formal arrangement doesn’t exist with the NZEI, Rodgers says they do meet regularly to discuss issues of concern, this being one of them.

Rodgers says that in the primary sector the Ministry is providing recruitment assistance to schools with hard-to-fill vacancies; working with the Tertiary Education Commission to influence the intake of students enrolling in initial teacher education so that they are a better match to school needs; working to smooth the path for overseas teachers coming to work in New Zealand schools, and exploring options for increasing the recruitment of beginning teachers into positions that will take them through to full registration.

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