It's election year: 'Addressing teacher shortage needs to be a priority'

13 February 2020

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa. Welcome to our first SouthSci newsletter of 2020!

I hope you had a wonderful summer break and are full of great science ideas for the new decade (we aim high here at SouthSci). We’re currently open for applications so I recommend you get in touch as soon as possible to get things underway! Application due dates and information are on our webpage:

I’d like to take the opportunity to get political: it’s an election year (we even have a date! Roll on 19th September) and the teaching profession is in as much distress as it was prior to the marches last year. The pay rise band-aid has done nothing to address the workload problems and teacher shortages seen across the country, and particularly in Auckland.

I was curious as to whether any of our main political parties had made promises for education yet, and anything in particular about the teacher shortage, so I dived into the weird world of political party policy. Please keep in mind that I am summarising my interpretation of what I have read, and to make the best-informed choice for you and your whānau, you should read them in their natural habitats also. Or better yet – make your local candidates tell you in person.

Labour: Policy available online? Yes. Date? 2019. Does it have an Education Section? Yes.

Quality lifelong education for all as a public good, inclusive approach to diversity. Whānau involvement, emphasis on early childhood education, no mention of science, specific mention for civics education addition. One specific mention regarding teachers: “A co-ordinated and systemic approach to the recruitment, provision of advice, professional development and support for a high-quality teaching profession is a very high priority” which is encouraging.

Greens: Policy available online? Yes. Date? 2015 (ouch). Does it have an Education Section? Yes.

Collaboration and coordination between education providers, specific mention of Te Tiriti values/principles incorporation throughout the education system. Lifelong learning for societal participation that is sustainable, equitable and peaceful. Values diversity. “Change the staffing formula to enable an incremental reduction in class sizes over time” which is a first for overt addressing of the teacher workload issue. They also have a complete section for teachers and teacher education, which is also a first (and only). It includes points that address pay, status and security, increases non-contact time, and training issues like introducing cultural competencies for teachers.

NZ First: Policy available online? No.

If you’re a NZ First voter regardless of policy, I suggest you jump online and tell them what you want to see regarding fixing the teacher shortage.

National: Policy available online? No.

As I am writing this newsletter they are asking for public input, so if you’re a National voter regardless of policy, I suggest you jump online and tell them what you want to see regarding fixing the teacher shortage.

ACT: Policy available online? Yes. Date? 2020 (live webpage). Does it have an Education Section? Yes.

Very pro charter school and freedom of school choice for those with the means to do so (access and ability – reading between the lines). A lot of lamenting about how our Education system is a failure (esp MoE) but a lack of specific and practical plans for pedagogical improvement, some really…interesting ones about funding and oversight. Their suggestion for addressing teacher shortage is to allow private schools freedom to hire outside MoE control and union influence.

I think I need a unicorn chaser, why did I put ACT last?

It’s still early days, and the party promises will start coming thick and fast over the next seven months. It will be interesting to see what any of them do around directly addressing teacher workload and shortage though, and I’m going to start asking.

What can we all do to help? Join your union if you’re a teacher, start actively talking about how great the teachers you know are in public, if you are not. And most importantly – vote. Vote like your life and future depends on it. Vote like our children’s lives and futures depends on it. Because they do.

Mā te wā!

Dr Sarah.