Graduates fear teaching careers in peril

Last updated 05:00 22/07/2013

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A lack of teaching positions in the south is worrying new graduates, who are concerned they will fail to gain registration if the shortage continues.

To become fully registered with the New Zealand Teachers' Council, new teachers must complete two years of teaching within a five-year period, not including day-to-day relieving and any teaching stints of less than six weeks.

However, many graduates say it is increasingly difficult for new teachers to gain that experience in the south. More experienced teachers were staying in work longer and universities were training more students than the industry needed.

Invercargill teacher Joleen Harding said she was surviving as a day-to-day reliever and was concerned she may not secure enough work to become registered.

She had lost count of the number of jobs she had applied for, and said she knew of many others in the same situation.

After graduating in 2009, she tried job-hunting in Australia before securing a year of long-term relief in Invercargill last year. She had since had to pick up short-term relief and nannying work, which did not count towards her registration, she said.

"It's scary, thinking at the end of the year there's going to be a whole lot of other graduates coming out, fighting for the same jobs."

Five Southland teaching jobs are listed on the Ministry of Education's Education Gazette website, where schools must post vacancies - two for experienced early childhood teachers, two for registered teachers for a head of department role and a principal, and one calling for early childhood teachers to add to their relief pool.

Eleven jobs are listed in the Central Otago and Queenstown area, but only three do not require experienced and registered teachers or senior education staff.

New Zealand Education Institute spokeswoman Debra Harrington said the problem was not isolated to Southland and the institute was concerned many newly graduated teachers would leave the profession before they had even started because of the job shortage.

It was hard for graduates to find jobs because experienced teachers were working longer than in the past, probably because of financial uncertainty, and many new teachers were being trained.

"There is a big mismatch between the number of teachers being trained and the number of jobs available. There is little incentive for universities to limit the student intake."

University of Otago College of Education dean Professor Lisa Smith said 348 new teachers graduated from the College of Education in 2012, 67 at the Invercargill campus.

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The college prepared students for the job market by providing interview advice, working closely with principals, and training students in sports coaching, she said.

Ministry of Education Student Achievement deputy secretary Rowena Phair said teaching had been classified as a skill in demand by Immigration New Zealand, but the number of teachers leaving the profession had remained flat after falling to a 10-year low in 2010-11.

But there was still a nationwide shortage of Maori-medium and te reo Maori teachers in all sectors, and an increasing demand for early childhood teachers who spoke a Pasifika language..

- The Southland Times

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