Government reports easing teacher shortage, but principals say better quality candidates needed

While the Ministry of Education is reporting an easing teacher shortage, principals say it's not over and that they want quality over quantity for a long-term solution.

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New Zealand Principals' Federation national president Perry Rush talked about the ongoing issue after the Ministry of Education reported an easing teacher shortage. Source: Breakfast

The ministry's deputy secretary for early learning and student achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid, yesterday told RNZ schools had lodged 166 vacancies with recruitment agencies - 100 fewer than at the same time last year.

"We're estimating around about 800 to 900 teachers at the upper end will be needed this year. We have delivered 1000 extra teachers last year, 1000 extra teachers the year before, we have a good supply pipeline," she said.

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Teacher demand eases, but up to 900 more needed over the year

However, New Zealand Principals' Federation national president Perry Rush told TVNZ1's Breakfast today that quality staff was needed for a long-term solution.

"The ministry's view is a teacher is a teacher is a teacher. I think the view of principals is one focused very strongly on the quality of a teacher, so we're very interested in finding teachers with the skills and the capability, and that's a challenge in the current landscape."

Especially as a large number of schools move towards a more collaborative future, with open plan classrooms and multiple teachers working with communities of students, Mr Rush said it was "a struggle for those schools to find quality staff".

In the past two years, the ministry had helped place about 540 foreign-trained teachers in schools.

"The ministry is interested in dealing with the shortage and I think they've done a really affective job at providing access to overseas-trained teachers. That's a great measure but it's a short-term measure - it's not a long-term strategy," Mr Rush said.

"We need to make sure that we have high-quality, Kiwi-trained teachers coming through to our schools - that's really important."

The areas struggling the most, he said, are remote schools - especially those in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay.