Too many teachers, not enough jobs

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Nice day for a graduation (photo by author)

I graduated today. This should have been a happy occasion, a celebration of slogging out a tough course. But instead the mood was a mood of despondency among many of the those who graduated today. Many didn’t show up.

The reason?

There are no teaching jobs.

Horror stories quickly start to emerge. Hundreds applicants applying for a single position. Graduates with straight As posting off dozens of CVs to not get a single call for an interview. I’m defintely more of the exception rather than rule as a member of the class of 2011 who started the 2012 with a full-time permanent position.

However I worked hard to secure it.

My mother, who is also a teacher, looked on slightly bemused last year as I filled out lenghty application forms built e-portfolios mumbling how much things had changed since her day when teacher trainees were pretty much guaranteed a job at graduation. Of course back in the 1970s there was also country service which Dad had to write a letter to get my Mum exempted.

But the surprising thing about the employment market as it stands in 2012 is that even students studying in the provincial areas are having the same problem.

No teaching jobs.

I understand that we don’t want just anyone in our classrooms.

It should be hard to find a teaching position. I like that it is hard. To be deemed worthy enough to be responsible for a class of learners should be viewed by society as an accomplishment.

But it should not be this hard.

I’m hazarding a guess that maybe around 40% of the students at best have actual teaching jobs from my course and at least half of those teachers are fixed-term contracts. Given that the government plans to increase class sizes in the next fiscal year, teachers on fixed-term contracts (many of whom are first and second year teachers) have a strong likelihood of finding themselves unemployed at the end of the school year just as the next batch of students start graduating.

And that’s just students from the 2011 Graduate Diploma from University on the Hill.

There are also the three year BEds who don’t have permanent teaching jobs and there will be similar refrains heard from the 17 institutions up and down the country.

No teaching jobs.

Some teachers are going the relieving route but New Zealand is now in the process of losing these teachers overseas, to early childhood and to other professions. I can’t help but rage at the massive waste of resources, not only in terms of the time and money of the students, but also in government money that we are training so many teachers for jobs that simply don’t exist.

The joke will be on us in a few years wondering why the people we are investing thousands of dollars in don’t stay in New Zealand to teach or are not teaching at all. One of the reasons?

No teaching jobs.

What I don’t understand is how this situation was allowed to happen.

The number of teacher education providers and courses has exploded in the last decade or two, particularly at the primary level. I know that last year had the lowest number of teaching positions advertised and that during a recession teaching is a safe port in the storm. But my gut feeling is that the employment market for teachers shouldn’t be nearly this imbalanced.

Most of the teacher education providers in this country are state institutions and 85% of New Zealand students attend a state school. It shouldn’t be that hard for some policy wonk in the Ministry of Education to wor out that we have a massive mismatch between the number of graduating teachers our system is churning out and the number of positions actually up for grabs.

The parting piece of job-hunting advice my course-mates and I were given was to hang tight as the bulge of older teachers start to retire in the next 5-10 years and a bulge of students start to hit. But with student loans to repay and that small matter of eating and paying rent, graduating teachers don’t have the luxury of waiting out the tight employment market in the hope that might get a job in a few years once older teachers start retiring.

Which is why I don’t understand why the government is putting another $60 million into recruitment and teacher education. There is no shortage of graduating teachers. We have a glut. And that glut should translate into higher-quality teachers according to the world of market economics.

But there is one small problem with this theory.

At the moment teachers have protections which prevent them from being unfairly dismissed. Which explains the sudden myopic focus on teacher quality.

In the context of cutting education spending the superhero teacher line that keeps getting bandied about actually has little to do with quality teaching. Instead it is a way to manufacture a crisis in education to justify forcing older, more experienced expensive teachers out of the New Zealand system in favour of bright young things cheaper teachers with little or no teacher education. If schools are forced to ‘compete’ for teaching talent through paying higher salaries for expertise and experience, one guess which schools will find themselves with more bargaining power.

I’m not saying that experienced teachers are inherently better teachers and that New Zealand’s teacher education is perfect. But as a first-year teacher I also know the importance of having great mentors and people you can turn to for advice not only for teaching but also for resolving incidents of bullying, managing relationships with our students’ parents and also coping with tough emotional issues that our students bring with them to class. But I have the luxury of an actual teaching position when I know for many of the course mates professional oversight is just not an issue.

They just want to enter the teaching profession.

Nevertheless, I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who is concerned that over the coming years we are going to watch the destruction of all that is good about the New Zealand schooling system as teachers and schools squabble for an ever declining poll of resources. It is easy to see New Zealand going down the American path where jobs, bonuses and student progression are based on shonky ‘data’ that has little do with student learning and more to do with abstract economic models dreamed up by people who have no experience in the classroom.

Instead of jubilation there was a mood of quiet resignation from many of the members of the teaching community who graduated today. Far too many of my fellow graduates just spent a year of their life and $7,000 learning to teach only to see it put to waste.

But we are only one pixel of a wider picture of educational deform.

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16 thoughts on “Too many teachers, not enough jobs

  1. And there are those who have a much larger loan and have invested three years of their lives, some have set an example about the Greatness of Education and University and tried desperately to break a cycle within a family (only to show two year 11 and 12 students that doing the hard yards, going to Uni and working hard only gets you a unemployment benefit).

    Some are now deemed overqualified to go back to packing shelves in the supermarket as we all know that as soon as a teaching job comes up some are out-of-there. Some had a dream of becoming a successful teacher, of using their knowledge and understanding and working hard to help everyone get a fair chance and a good shot at understanding the value of learning and knowledge, some where also role modelling and trying to show others that dreams are possible – only to have it shattered bit by painful bit as the thanks but no thanks letters keep coming in, and the temptation of returning to Australia after calling NZ home for 17 years getting stronger and stronger.

    I still clearly remember the adds on TV four years ago encouraging us to give teaching a go and Teach NZ supporting me every step of the way as it was ‘people like you that we need in education’ HAHA More like idiots like me who will now be paying interest on a student loan on a very low wage as I struggle to find any work. However the blame lies within me for trying to follow a dream and using the available resources in trying to achieve that dream. Perhaps I should never had taken that loan and then I would still have a dream.

    P.S One extremely motivated teacher looking for work and even prepared to volunteer to get Experience in the South Auckland area. Checky perhaps but Stephanie you can delete it if you wish.

    Best of luck to all out there.

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  2. It’s amazing what a difference there is between Australia and New Zealand. I am currently studying my Grad Dip Ed to be a maths teacher in NSW, Australia. I’m not sure of the exact statistic, but something like 40% of the NSW public education maths teacher are due to retire in the next 5 years. That’s a big hole to fill with training teachers. I’m sure it’s not the same for all subjects, but even so!!

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  3. Its is exactly the same in Australia. There are so many teachers looking for work. The oversupply is partly caused by the GFC. The average age of a primary teacher in Australia is still 50 years old. So many older teachers were meant to start retiring at 55. After their superannuation(retirement fund) was wiped out by the GFC they need to stay in their jobs. Most younger teachers cant get a permanent position in schools and if they get something, its on contract that needs to be constantly renewed in a field of fierce competition. A similar thing happened to me when I graduated in 1988. The state govts in Australia had just retrenched 1000’s of teachers so many of my fellow college mates who graduated with me, gave up and went into other professions.

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  4. Sadly it has not been a good year for many schools as we have suffered falling rolls. I know of several colleges, including the one I work at, that were told there was no funding for the level of staff we had. If it had not been for natural ‘wastage’ with leavers etc, and posts not being filled, we would have had to go through a review with everyone re-applying for their own jobs. This leads to horrible tensions within the staff-room. So things are not even that rosy once you have a job that you think is safe and guaranteed.
    Another thing I have been told is that the BEd is not going to be enough soon, with everyone entering the teaching profession needing a postgraduate qualification of some sort.
    This whole thing is cyclical however, it has happened before and it will undoubtedly happen again. I can only sympathise with those not able to get into a job in teaching, and battling to do so. Make sure you don’t vote National next time round and it might make all of our futures a bit more secure.
    And whichever plank came up with the idea that making class sizes bigger works lives in cloud cuckoo land. It just allows the anonymous quiet kid to slip off the radar and not get the attention they deserve.
    Here’s hoping we don’t lose all of these fine new teachers to Australia or some other profession. Maybe the colleges that offer teacher training need to reign in the number of applicants for a while to allow market recovery (except that would do damage to profits…).
    Sorry for ranting, but this stuff annoys me too!

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  10. After teaching for 10 years odd in SA, I came to NZ with my teacher’s diploma. I could not get registration and decided to retrain and do a three year B. Ed degree. I will graduate in six months and now i hear there are no jobs. As a widow I have to fend for myself, was this all wasted? I have a dream to fullfill and a student loan to repay.

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  12. I am currently preparing a research proposal and the topic of my research is; ” A study of how the lack of jobs in the teaching profession impacts on the attitudes of the teachers in training.” I chose to conduct this research because i am a teacher in training/ student teacher and it pains me to know that when i graduate i might not get a job. I am not worried though because i know that God is not slack concerning his promises.

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