New teachers aren’t prepared to teach, says ERO report

A report from the ERO finds new teachers aren’t prepared to teach, citing poor initial teacher education - but teachers colleges disagree.

A report from the Education Review Office (ERO), released in May, says new teachers aren’t prepared for the classroom, and says initial teacher education programmes are partially to blame.  

It found that although almost all new teachers enjoy teaching (93 percent), 60 percent of principals say their new teachers are unprepared, and 50 percent of new teachers themselves report being unprepared for the classroom. Only around 20 percent of principals and 29 percent of new teachers say they are prepared.  

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There was an agreement that new teachers were well prepared in some areas, but lacking in others. They were least prepared for managing challenging behaviour, working with parents, adapting teaching to different students and using assessments.  

New primary teachers reported being unprepared in certain subjects such as languages (49 percent), technology (38 percent), science (32 percent), te reo Māori (30 percent) and maths (24 percent).  

Older new teachers reported being more prepared to work with parents and whānau and manage behaviour, and Māori teachers reported being more prepared to give effect to te Tiriti o Waitangi and manage behaviour.  

Half of new teachers said initial teacher education (ITE) was effective, though over a quarter (28 percent) said it was not.  

Graduates from non-university providers such as wānanga, Polytechnics / Institutes of Technology and private establishments reported being more prepared than university graduates. 

Other findings included a lack of job security for new teachers. This may translate into limited support which is crucial for new teacher wellbeing and retention. The report also found new teachers learn quickly on the job.  

The report concluded with three main areas of action. The first is to attract new teachers who are most likely to succeed in teaching. Recommendations include increasing the status of teaching and raising entry requirements for ITE programmes.  

Recommendations include attracting more high quality candidates to teaching. Adobe Stock, by dglimages

The second area of action is to the strengthen ITE programmes. Recommendations included better moderation of programmes and their content and improving access to in-classroom training.  

The final recommendation is to provide more structured support for new teachers in their first two years. To achieve this, the report recommends that new teachers receive greater employment stability, and that the ERO should evaluate the support they receive from school boards.  

Commenting on the findings to Morning Report, ERO Education Evaluation Centre head Ruth Shinoda said steps were needed to reduce variation in preparedness of ITE graduates. 

PPTA Te Wehengarua President Chris Abercrombie commented that university providers were perhaps “stretched thin” and said the PPTA wants increased support for mentors.  

In a statement, NZEI Te Riu Roa President Mark Potter said the union “believes that the training and employment of new teachers needs urgent change, and that schools, training institutions and new teachers themselves need to help shape a fix. 

“We also need to act urgently to make teacher training accessible and affordable. We welcome ERO’s recommendations that paid placements and guaranteed employment for provisionally certified teachers be explored.” 

Teachers’ Colleges reject claims  

Alison Kearney, chairperson of the Council of Deans of Education, which represents teachers’ colleges, said that the ERO report was flawed as it was based on a small number of new teachers who had trained during the pandemic.  

“We are concerned about ERO’s use of a small-scale survey of less than 10 percent of new teachers and 12 percent of principals to make sweeping, system-level claims and to compare different education providers.” 

Kearney pointed out that a lack of confidence in a new job was normal, something that the report acknowledged.  

She also rejected the ERO’s finding that new teachers needed more practicum time. Currently, the Teaching Council requires students of the one-year ITE programme to spend at least 16 weeks in classrooms. For those in the three-year programme the minimum was 24 weeks.  

Kearney also said that an exit exam is “not in keeping with evidence-based practice.  

“Examinations are really good if you’re trying to measure rote learning or, at their best, useful for surface-level recall rather than deep understanding. So for something as complex as teaching, I’m sure that people would agree that examinations would be inappropriate and not really of value.”  

Exit exams for teachers would be “inappropriate”, says Kearney. AdobeStock by arrowsmith2.

Universities already have final assessments for ITE, she noted. These are mostly oral and cover complex decision making.  

Kearney finished by stating the factors influencing new teacher retention were complex and many had nothing to do with ITE. She cited surveys which showed teachers were being burdened with high workloads, a lack of support and insufficient pay-rates.  

The ERO report was written based on findings from surveying 751 new teachers and 278 principals; interviews with 23 new teachers, school leaders from four schools, and four mentor teachers; existing data; existing literature; and interviews with experts at the Teaching Council and the Ministry of Education.  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She has been covering education in New Zealand since 2022.
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