Workforce Strategy to address education woes

Staff Reporter

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has launched an Education Workforce Strategy as the first major step towards tackling a looming teacher shortage.

The shortage threatens to engulf our schools if action is not taken, he said.

The Strategy is desperately needed to make up for a lack of long-term planning over the past few years, he added.

Challenging Numbers

“The numbers tell the story. By 2030, student numbers are expected to increase from 800,000 to 850,000. There are fewer new teachers – the number of graduating teachers fell from 5875 in 2012 to 3665 in 2016. And we have an aging teaching workforce – 42% of teachers are now over 50, and 20% are over 60 years old,” Mr Hipkins said.

He said that while there are several initiatives being implemented to address current shortages, there has been no plan for the future.

Addressing all issues

Mr Hipkins said that the Plan, to be developed by the end of the year in partnership with the sector, will cover Early Learning, Primary and Secondary Education, the Learning Support Workforce, Maori-medium and English-medium, and Maori language learning in all settings.

The new Strategy will aim at removing red tape and cumbersome procedures within the system and reduce the administrative burden on teachers at learning centres and schools.

Five Key Areas

The Strategy will focus on five key areas: (1) Developing a common view of how the workforce will contribute to the Government’s vision for education, including commitments to strengthen Te Reo Maori (2) Attracting, recruiting and retaining a diverse and high quality workforce; and lifting workforce capability and capacity (3) Addressing existing issues, such as fluctuations in supply and demand (4) Addressing the impact of technology on early learning, classroom teaching and in-school practices and (5) Minimising compliance-focused workload to ensure that teachers have the time to focus on teaching and learning.

Linking data sets

Data about teachers and teaching is held across different education agencies in data sets that are not all linked effectively, Mr Hipkins said.

Those agencies are working to develop more comprehensive and high-quality data about the education workforce, which will enable the planning required to ensure that supply better matches demand.

The strategy will be reviewed annually to keep it up to date with new thinking and practices.

Some more details

The Education Portfolio Programme prepared by Mr Hopkins is the harbinger of the future-focused Education Workforce Strategy in partnership with the sector.

Mr Hipkins said that there is increasing pressure on teacher supply in certain locations, subjects and parts of the sector.

“This includes the Auckland region and in specific subjects like Te Reo Maori, Science, Technology and Mathematics. Tightening supply conditions are being exacerbated by falling initial teacher education (ITE) enrolments and concerns over the ageing teaching workforce and growth in student numbers,” he said.

Quality Teaching

Mr Hipkins said that quality teaching is the strongest in-school influence on children and young people’s learning.

Participation in quality early learning has also been linked to a range of positive outcomes.

“I want to ensure that the pressure on supply does not impact on the quality of our education system or the status of the teaching profession. As such, the Strategy will reflect this Government’s drive to raise the status of the education profession, restore their trust and confidence and ensure they have the time to focus on teaching and learning,” he said.

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Photo Caption:

Chris Hipkins

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