sector we have a teacher shortage.
However, we have a conundrum. No
one collects official data or statistics on the numbers of teachers employed in
early childhood education (ECE), and that is leading some to go so far as denying
there is a teacher shortage at all.
know there is one.
As at 30
August 2018, we noted the Education Gazette listed 377 teacher vacancies in the
ECE sector, and there were 553 listings on Trade Me Jobs.
ECE sector says they are carrying vacancies, and it is hard to fill them with
qualified teachers. They are also
battling bureaucracy at times to try and hire their preferred candidates, which
adds to the length vacancies are carried.
It makes me think of the philosophical thought question:
"If a tree falls in a forest and
no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
We have been saying since
September 2017 that the teacher shortages were not limited just to schools or
just to Auckland, and that ECE was impacted by the teacher shortages too.
beginning of this year, we had a glimpse of some teacher training statistics
when it was revealed the numbers of people entering initial teacher training to
become a tertiary qualified early childhood teacher had dropped by a whopping 40
released figures (February 2018) that showed ECE teacher trainees had reduced from 6760 to 3615 in the six years to
2016. These numbers were described as ‘staggering’
by the Minister of Education at the time and the headlines at the time read:
‘chronic shortages of teachers laid bare’*.
It was the first time
that we had heard public statements recognising that there were indeed
shortages of ECE teachers in New Zealand, not only in ECE services right now,
but also longer-term as numbers coming out of tertiary institutions decline,
and for ECE it was the largest decline.
After the February
statements, support packages were announced to address teacher shortages in
schools, but ECE is not being treated the same.
We get that ECE teachers are not employed by government, and therefore
there is less information about the ECE sector compared to schools. But, ECE is a valuable contributor to the
education system as a whole, providing preschool care and education, including
the vital getting ready for school skills and competencies our youngest
citizens gain under the national curriculum Te Whaariki.
Back in May, at our ECC
conference, in response to concerns from the floor about teacher shortages in
ECE, the Minister challenged us to come up with ideas for short-term solutions
to alleviate the pressure caused by a shortage of teachers in our sector. We took that challenge up.
We asked our members for
their experiences, and ideas for changes that would help them overcome some of
the bureaucracy to be able to hire teachers quickly for vacancies, or for ways
they could continue to meet all of the regulatory requirements while carrying
teacher shortages for lengths of time. We
held workshops with members, and analysed what members had told us in a survey. Together, we came up with some sensible ideas
for easing the pressures of teacher shortages in ECE. These are tangible things that would take
some pressure off centres short term, while they are carrying teaching
Our member early
childhood and education centres told us the teacher shortages are stressful, and
some said they don’t know what to do as they can’t fill vacancies. We
have heard ECE centres are finding that there are not the candidates available
or that bureaucracy significantly slows down the ability to hire some teachers
quickly. A survey* of our members in October
2017, suggested around a 30% are carrying teaching vacancies, and that the
vacancies are often open for at least 70-days and sometimes longer.
One of our ECC members
told us: “this past year has been the hardest for us in finding teachers… I am
now three qualified teachers short and we are paying unqualified and qualified
relievers via agencies to fill the gaps, and have done so for 10 months.
We are advertising regularly… We are desperate and have no idea what we are
meant to do.”
In the meantime, we
watched as a number of support measures were announced for the teacher
shortages in schools, including beefing up overseas teacher drives. ECE was not included in these.
We know there is no magic
wand to teacher shortages. The recommendations
we made to relieve the teacher shortages pressure, involves seeking to relax
some of the bureaucracy that stops ECE services operating efficiently while
carrying long-term teaching vacancies, and also to address some of the
bureaucracy that stops ECE services hiring some teachers quickly. Ensuring ECE centres can continue to run
effectively from a regulatory point of view, while carrying teaching shortages,
benefits the children and the families that use the services.
Our ideas, that we put to
The ECC has been asking
since September 2017, to have ECE teachers put back on the official immigration
Immediate Skills Shortages List, and we were pleased to see that has been going
through official consideration by government, supported by the Ministry of
Education and other sector bodies in ECE.
We need a range of
measures to alleviate the pressures of teacher shortages, and we have suggested
some ideas that could help now.
We know the reasons for
teacher shortages across the education sector, and indeed being faced by other
countries too, are more complex than rules and regulations, and overly complex
bureaucracy. Some of the questions about
teacher shortages, not only how we got here, but how we can over-come it
long-term, will be looked at as part of the development of the forward looking
Education Workforce Strategy, and we support this work.
The ECC will continue to
discuss the recommendations we have made to help alleviate the pressures of the
teacher shortages in ECE now. As a
membership body we are not-for-profit, and we represent the views and interests
of our membership, 1,200 ECE centres. It is important ECE centres working to
deliver education to our youngest citizens, while carrying significant teaching
vacancies, can continue to do so while meeting fair regulatory requirements,
and not having funding impacted while recruiting for teachers in a tight labour
We have heard stories
from some that this is the hardest it has ever been to recruit ECE teachers. Just
because there are no official figures on ECE teachers, does not mean a shortage
isn’t happening, or indeed that a tree is falling!
*ECC membership survey, conducted October 2017, completed
by 167 member centres, highlighted a significant shortage of ECE qualified
teachers in over 30% of the sector. Ninety
percent of centres surveyed reported carrying teaching vacancies in the
12-months prior to the survey. They
reported the time it takes to fill a teaching vacancy is over 70 days.
*As at 30 August 2018, the Education Gazette listed 377
teacher vacancies in the ECE sector, and there were 553 listings on Trade Me
*Chronic teacher shortages laid bare (27 February 2018) https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/chronic-teacher-shortage-laid-bare
*ECC media release (15 October 2018) https://www.ecc.org.nz/Category?Action=View&Category_id=576