Ed's Letter - The time is rightJune 2016
Not long ago, I received a phone call from a researcher in the UK whose study focus was teacher workforce supply trends across the world. She was interested in why some countries are facing a shortage of teachers while others are faced with a situation where many applicants are after the same jobs. A quick check through the back issues of Education Review revealed that teacher workforce supply has been a problem for a while now in New Zealand.
To claim we have an ‘oversupply’ of teachers is misleading. There are jobs out there – it’s just that teachers have to be prepared to look outside of the main urban centres for them. Many of New Zealand’s more rural areas are crying out for great new teacher grads to consider them in their job searches. Subject area plays a part too; many schools say they’re short of mathematics and science teachers, while physical education teachers are often in plentiful supply.
It’s a tricky business managing teacher workforce supply. The Ministry of Education has formed a Joint Working Group on Secondary Teacher Supply with the PPTA as part of the settlement of the Secondary Teachers’ Collective Agreement. The Ministry is also 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. It is also exploring ways to increase the recruitment of beginning teachers into positions that will take them through to full registration. The NZEI’s Beginning Teacher Charter is a great new initiative to support new teachers as well.
However, of most importance is the quality of these new teachers emerging from initial teacher education. ITE providers, the Education Council and the Ministry of Education are all focused on raising the profile of the teaching profession. Many are keen to see a postgraduate ITE qualification as the entry-level requirement into teaching. Meanwhile others are nervous that this will dissuade excellent would-be teachers from entering the profession. Again, a quick check through the archives shows that this, too, is an issue that has occupied discussions for a long time.
The education sector feels ready for some direction on this. Providers, in particular, are ready to move forward. With the postgrad ITE pilot now in its third year, there is surely enough evidence to support a decision on the future shape of teacher education. The time is right.
Editor, Jude Barback