Schools forced to find hundreds of foreign teachers

Principals told RNZ they had no choice but to seek teachers from overseas because there were not enough local teachers to fill their vacancies.

Their comments followed the government's announcement that it had increased the number of overseas-based teachers it was seeking to recruit for next year from 400 to 900 because schools would need about 850 more teachers next year.

It increased its spending on overseas' recruitment efforts including advertising, $5000 relocation grants and $3000 finders' fees by $10 million to take overall spending to $40 million.

The recruitment campaign targeted New Zealanders working in other countries, as well as foreign teachers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia and Fiji.

A Scottish teacher working at Auckland's Randwick Park School since August, Rachel Hutson, said New Zealand was an attractive place to work for teachers from England and Scotland.

"My colleagues back in Scotland were saying how jealous they were," she said.

"The lifestyle is just so different from Scotland, there's so much more emphasis on the children being healthy and outdoors and the work-life balance is actually a lot better," she said.

The school's principal, Karen McMurray, said Ms Hutson had been fantastic and it was trying to hire another Scottish teacher through a recruitment agency for next year.

Ms McMurray said it was the only way she could staff the school next year.

"There is no-one available, no suitable applicants, or no applicants. Be they suitable or not, they're not available in New Zealand," she said.

Ms McMurray said the government's $10 million boost to overseas recruitment for next year would help, but it was a temporary solution to the teacher shortage.

"Anything will help but as I said, it's kind of like putting a band-aid over a bigger problem."

Ms McMurray said her school had been forced to close one of its bilingual Māori classes this year because it could not find a Māori-speaking teacher.

The children from that class had been distributed among two other classes, which now have more than 30 children each.

Principal of South Wellington Intermediate School, Tracil Liddall, said she needed to hire at least three teachers next year and would have to consider teachers from overseas because there were so few local applicants for jobs.

"We will consider overseas teachers, absolutely. We have to," she said.

Ms Liddall said foreign teachers could be excellent, but she had mixed feelings about looking abroad for a teacher.

"Most overseas teachers have got no understanding of the New Zealand Curriculum," she said.

"The New Zealand Curriculum is quite different and far less prescriptive than operates in most countries, so it's quite a big culture shock for teachers who come into the New Zealand system, and it also puts extra pressure on the New Zealand teachers who are already here to get them up to speed."

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