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Teacher shortage likely as school roll predictions skyrocket

Published: Mon 10 Sep 2012 11:40 AM
10 September, 2012
Teacher shortage likely as school roll predictions skyrocket
Preparing future teachers is becoming more important than ever before according to a Waikato University academic who says predictions on school roll totals up to the year 2030 show New Zealand will be facing a teacher shortage in the next few years.
Faculty of Education Dean Professor Roger Moltzen says Ministry of Education data showing national school roll predictions is important reading for anyone concerned about whether completing a teacher education programme will lead to a job.
The figures show students enrolled in primary schools will increase steadily until 2019, by which time there will be 44,500 more students than in 2011.
“We anticipate that New Zealand could actually be facing a teacher shortage in the next few years because of the staffing required to cope with the student increase,” Professor Moltzen says.
“School rolls are already increasing so there is no better time to enrol in a quality teacher education programme. Students who begin their studies in 2013 are likely to face excellent job prospects by the time they graduate at the end of 2015.”
Professor Moltzen says at the beginning of 2016 approximately 1150 additional primary teachers will be needed around the country to cope with the increased enrolments, based on an average class size of 27 students.
As students move through the school system the crunch time for secondary teachers is expected around 2019 when enrolments begin to escalate steadily and reach a peak in 2024, up 22,000 students on 2011 secondary enrolments.
Figures show New Zealand is at the end of a downward trend of falling school rolls, which has meant many teaching graduates have struggled to find work in recent years. However a gradual increase in birth rates since 2004, and particularly from 2007, means the country will see large cohorts begin entering primary school over the next few years.
Several factors make a teacher shortage likely, Professor Moltzen says.
“The high birth rates alone will not equate to a teacher shortage. 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 shows a steady growth in the number of teachers over 60 years of age across the teaching sector, from 6% (2900) in 2005 to approximately 14% (6000) at the beginning of 2012. Professor Moltzen commented that recent information from the New Zealand Teachers Council indicates the percentage of teachers over 60 has continued to rise during the past year.
“While there is uncertainty when the teachers in these age brackets will retire, we can predict with some certainty that over the next few years we will see large numbers of experienced teachers exiting the workforce.”
Further evidence is shown in population projections. By 2031 New Zealand will have a population of over 5 million people, with numbers in the Auckland region rising by over 500,000 – the biggest increase in the country – followed by a growth of over 130,000 people in the Waikato Bay of Plenty region, according to predictions from the National Infrastructure Unit.
Professor Moltzen says by combining all of these trends the figures represent a teacher shortage in the next few years.
“Teaching is an important, rewarding and highly sought-after profession and current data shows well-trained, enthusiastic teachers are likely to be in continuous demand for some time to come.
“Waikato is proud to offer a range of teaching programmes to suit school leavers, university graduates and mature students who come to teaching from other professions.”
The university currently ranks number one in the country for educational research. Its Tauranga campus caters for students who choose to live and study in the Bay of Plenty.
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