First-time teachers’ capabilities and professional education has been drawn into question by a new Education Review Office (ERO) report, with a “widespread” lack of confidence by school principals in new graduates’ abilities in the classroom.
In addition, ERO highlighted “a decline in New Zealand’s performance as a nation in the critical areas of reading, mathematics and science” since 2015.
The report recommended more focused guidance and mentoring of new entrants to the profession by experienced colleagues and school leaders. ERO would also like to see the status of the teaching profession improved.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins and opposition education spokesperson Nikki Kaye both agreed that the report highlighted the lack of practical opportunities in current teacher training.
Tertiary Education Union secretary Sharn Riggs said the report “confirmed what staff have been telling government for years: if you relax standards and diminish the practical component of teacher training, new graduate teachers will be under-prepared for the classroom, and that ultimately it will be the education of our children that suffers.”
A recent a global study has found that the average reading level of 10-year-olds in New Zealand has dropped to its lowest level on record, with the country having dropped eleven places since 2011 to now sit at 32nd out of 50 countries.
“The ERO report is a lesson to all decision makers. When making changes to professional training qualifications, the people who deliver the training day-in-day-out must be listened to,” Riggs said.
“They know the profession better than anyone, and had their expertise been listened to at the time then this disappointing report could have been avoided,”
Meanwhile, NZEI Te Riu Roa has welcomed the ERO report’s strong focus on improving the quality of teacher training.
According to NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart, the ERO report, and another by the Education Council, reflected what beginning teachers and schools have been telling us, .
“It’s clear there needs to be better partnership between training providers and schools and secure work for new teachers. Schools also need to be resourced properly to support teachers entering the profession,” Stuart said.
She said the numbers of teachers on fixed-term contracts was of concern, because beginning teachers need good support and mentoring, and a lack of continuity and ongoing relationship with a school can have an effect on getting the teacher to full certification.
“These are our precious new teachers, just starting out on their careers, and we need to give them everything they need to be the best they can be for children, themselves and the profession. We need to value them and all teachers.”
She said there also needed to be better preparation for teachers to teach and support children with learning needs so that New Zealand can have a truly inclusive education system and that all children can reach their potential.