Guaranteed employment after graduation – what’s the catch?

I’ve written a fair bit in the past about the lack of teaching positions available for teaching graduates in New Zealand. Unemployment was and still is a very scary prospect for teacher trainees.

At a time when they should be focused on studies, smart students will already be thinking ‘how can get I a job?’ and taking action to make this happen.

Labour’s idea of a guaranteed placement for teacher trainees seems attractive for those of us who have sat through the ‘only 15% of you will find a full-time teaching position good luck with that’ lecture at university.

Yet guaranteeing jobs is only a small part of the solution.

The de-regulated lets ‘leave it to the market’ simply hasn’t worked in teacher education. At the moment there’s a glut of new recruits in teaching but paradoxically there’s also a major recruitment crisis looming in teaching.

A large number of teachers are set to retire and there aren’t enough younger teachers who have had a chance to develop their practice to move up the ranks when the exodus hits. There’s also a horrendous rate of teachers who leave teaching after the first five years in their career.

Holding new teachers in their positions through bonding raises very real problems in my mind. What about the ones who want to go overseas? Who want to work in a school that better fits their pedagogy? What happens to the teachers who realise they don’t want to be teaching anymore?

No class should have a teacher in charge who doesn’t want to be there.

There are  bigger problems in teacher education.

Pre-service training – According to the Educational Council there are 80 teaching qualifications offered by 25 different providers. The amount of time and quality of in-school training varies widely. From a student perspective, the more time student teaching the better.

Pay and profession – initial pay isn’t too bad for teachers. The problem is it doesn’t keep pace with other professions and tops out after 7-8 years unless you go into admin. The ongoing novopay problems with pay are also a giant ‘stay clear’ sign for any new graduate.

Support – In-school support for new teachers is varied (I had a good experience, but not all do). It should be uniformly awesome. Then there’s out of school factors. New Zealand as a society could do a whole lot better about ensuring that our kids come to school ready to learn.

Professional autonomy – Over the last few years there’s been more government input into teaching. National standards, PaCT, the stripping away of teachers rights to govern their own profession. If you want to demoralise a workforce, ignoring their hard-won professional knowledge is a really awesome way to do this.

Professional development – Initial teacher training is a small component. On-going opportunities for professional learning and development are critical to the health of schools.


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