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Pressure set to come on teacher numbers

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 13:28 11/09/2012

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A projected teacher shortage over coming years could lead to larger class sizes and an increase in untrained staff working at Waikato schools.

Skyrocketing school rolls combined with high numbers of teachers nearing retirement was a recipe for a teacher shortage, University of Waikato education professor Roger Moltzen said.

Ministry of Education figures showed there will be 44,500 more primary pupils by 2019 than in 2011, and an extra 1150 primary teachers required by 2016.

The shortage was expected to have the greatest impact on Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Auckland schools.

An increase in births, which peaked in 2008, will see large cohorts of children starting school from this year.

“The high birth rates alone will not equate to a teacher shortage," Prof Moltzen said.

"Other factors such as the numbers of teachers nearing retirement age and the large numbers of graduates who move overseas or seek employment in other professions will also have a huge impact on the scenarios.”

Demographic data showed a jump in the number of teachers aged over 60, from 2900 in 2005 to about 6000 at the start of this year.

University of Waikato associate dean, teacher education, Beverley Cooper said a teacher shortage could lead to larger class sizes, a higher number of untrained teachers in schools and more staff being recruited from overseas.

She expected schools would start to feel the pinch within the next three years.

However, Mrs Cooper said the projected shortage was good news for those considering a career in education as many teaching graduates have struggled to find work in recent years.

"What we're trying to say to people is don't be put off [if] they hear that people are not winning jobs . . . Actually in the long term there will positions for them. It's about future-proofing."

Even if graduates are churned out at the current rate over the next few years, there was a "possibility that we won't have enough teachers" to manage the increase in student numbers, she said.

A shortage of secondary teachers was also expected around 2019. 

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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