No jobs for teachers in 'wrong' subjects

Last updated 05:00 10/06/2012
Canterbury University PE graduate Carolyn Merrifield
NO WORK: Canterbury University PE graduate Carolyn Merrifield.

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Universities are churning out hundreds of secondary teachers who remain jobless after training in the wrong subjects.

Figures show far more physical education teachers graduated than English teachers, with chemistry and maths numbers even further back.

"I don't know why they train so many people if there's no jobs," Canterbury University PE graduate Carolyn Merrifield, who's jobless a year after graduating, said. "All that happens is that people end up going overseas."

Subject data provided by universities shows up to 150 teachers graduated able to teach PE last year, while only around 30 qualified in chemistry and physics.

Secondary Principals Association president Patrick Walsh said the figures reflected the teaching subject shortage in schools.

"Principals have reported a shortage in physics, chemistry, Maori and maths. It's been going on for years but it's getting worse. Our feedback is being ignored."

He said there should be better incentives to study in-demand subjects.

Waikato University sport and leisure department head Dawn Penney said the over-supply of PE teachers was acknowledged. The department produced 55 PE teachers last year, and while the course was competitive and capped, many would have to take jobs overseas.

The Tertiary Education Commission said it did not impose restrictions on the type of teachers trained. While some subjects were incentivised through scholarships, there was nothing to discourage people from subjects already well-catered for.

PE graduates who have struggled to find jobs say there should be some form of warning for students. "When I graduated in 2010 I didn't even get an interview, it was that bad," said Wellington graduate Josie Fitzsimons, who took a sports administration role and worked her way into a part-time position.

When Otago's Michael Coutts graduated in 2009 the only jobs were in Auckland, so he moved to London. "There are a lot more opportunities. They also have specialist PE teachers in primary school, which we can work in."

Merrifield suggested a return to a bonding scheme to help teachers in their first few years. "I'd definitely take something like that up, and then I wouldn't even have to think about going overseas."

Education Minister Hekia Parata was approached for comment, but was too busy dealing with other issues last week.

Figures were provided by Auckland, Waikato, Otago, Victoria, AUT, and the Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. Canterbury provided partial figures. Massey University refused.

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Graduates 2011

PE 150

Maths 44

Maori 30

English 117

Chemistry 19

Technology 61

Physics 9

- Sunday Star Times

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