NZ sector mirrors Australian ECT challenges

by Lyndsie Clark

October 30

The New Zealand early childhood care and education (ECEC) sector is experiencing the same challenges as Australia when it comes to attracting and retaining early childhood teachers (ECTs).

 

An article in local New Zealand newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, states that the country’s ECEC sector is experiencing “their worst-ever teacher shortage, creating a market where qualified teachers can get “whatever they want””.

 

The article draws on data collected by the Early Childhood Council (ECC) that found that, in October, 30 per cent of New Zealand childcare centres reported unfilled vacancies for qualified ECTs, with the average time required to fill ECT roles sitting at 97 working days (up from 70 working days over the same period last year).

 

While the New Zealand Government has reportedly been proactive about responding to shortages of school teachers by allocating $10.5 million to recruit overseas teachers to fill shortfalls, the ECC has criticised its lack of action toward the nation’s significant ECT shortage.

 

ECC Chief Executive Officer Peter Reynolds said “We heard at the start of the year that this government thought it was staggering that numbers of people training to be ECTs had declined significantly, but they haven’t done anything at all to look at addressing shortages in ECEC in the short term. ECEC matters and should be recognised for the significant contribution it makes to children’s education.”

 

He went on to say that ECEC centres are trying various ways to attract suitably qualified teaching candidates, but are finding there are just not the candidates available or that bureaucracy significantly slows down the ability to hire some teachers quickly.

 

“The Minister of Education set us a challenge at our ECC conference in May this year – to come up ideas to alleviate the teacher shortage pressure in ECEC. So we have done that,” he said.  

 

“We gathered information from our membership surveys, asked for member experiences of the teacher shortages and ideas for fixing the teacher shortages in the short term, and then held a series of workshops and webinars discuss the ideas and to refine them.

 

“From there we put a formal paper submission of ideas and recommendations to government for consideration in August,” Mr Reynolds said.

 

Ideas to alleviate ECT shortages include:

 

Requesting the Ministry of Education look at the viability of changing some policies such as:  

 

  • Enabling services who are actively recruiting and carrying vacancies to cover the vacancies by increasing the ECEC discretionary hours from 40 to 160 hours  
  • Reducing the 80 per cent plus qualified teacher funding band to 70 per cent, but not changing the funding level
  • Consider case-by case support packages to ensure services can remain viable in communities that need them
  • Accepting primary-qualified and third-year student ECTs in the regulatory funding ratios  
  • Allow ECEC services to access the Ministry’s subsidised recruitment services.

 

Require the Teaching Council to urgently investigate the viability of:  

 

  • Introducing caveated practicing certificates, whereby any ECT seeking registration and certification who needs additional training to meet the Council’s full requirements be awarded provisional certification subject to the completion of that training within a specified time and provided that the teacher not act in a Person Responsible role for that duration.  
  • Reviewing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) policy, particularly as this applies to overseas teachers who have studied in English at secondary school and above; and paying particular attention to Pasifika teachers.  
  • Removing the eight-week stand-down before registration/certification with immediate effect.

 

Request Immigration New Zealand consider:  

 

  • Adding ECTs back onto the Immediate Skills Shortage List (ISSL) effective immediately, rather than await the service’s current timetable of March 2019.  
  • Exclude ECTs from the Visa points policy as it applies to Auckland, with immediate effect.

 

The Early Childhood Council is a not-for-profit membership body that represents the interests of around 1,200 community-owned and privately-owned early childhood centres across New Zealand.

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