Budget breakthrough or bandaid solution in budget ’24?

OPINION/ANALYSIS: Rebecca Thomas weighs in on the hope and skepticism generated by the government's pledge to fund teacher training.

The announcement of nearly $53 millioninvested over four years to support teacher training and recruitment in order to ‘raise achievement’ and ‘develop a world leading education system’ has elicited a range of responses from the education community.

Some grateful for efforts to relieve the teaching shortage; others remain skeptical, particularly about initiatives involving overseas-trained teachers. School leaders are already contemplating the practical implications on staffing and resources.

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Where does your opinion lie? Can you be both grateful and skeptical at the same time?

‘The path of sound credence is through a thick forest of skepticism.” – George Jean Nathan

Gratitude often arises from acknowledging the positive aspects of a situation or the actions of others, while skepticism involves questioning or critically evaluating those same aspects. Feeling both grateful for the opportunity to support teacher training and skeptical about the government’s intentions, or the effectiveness of the initiative, is entirely understandable.

Skeptical Voices

Some educators have expressed concerns over the provision of Overseas Relocation Grants and Overseas Finders Fees packages for schools to recruit international teachers. Drawing from personal experiences, some overseas-trained teachers recount facing deficit thinking and biases during the job application process in New Zealand.

Securing a skilled migrant visa is a journey fraught with expenses. From navigating the complexities of the NZQA process to ensuring the right salary conversion, the financial burdens add up. Yet, even after overcoming these hurdles, the ultimate test lies in securing employment from a New Zealand school. It’s a daunting prospect for teachers overseas contemplating uprooting their lives, relinquishing their familiar surroundings, and venturing into the unknown. The commitment required to pursue this elusive relief is staggering, with numerous variables and expectations at play.

Overseas-trained teachers face their own challenges integrating into the New Zealand teaching context with little support despite the fast-track visa process. Photo: AdobeStock by xixinxing

As an overseas-trained teacher myself, I know firsthand the challenges of navigating the job market here. There’s often a prevailing skepticism about your qualifications and ability to adapt to the local context. When you do finally arrive you also find out quickly what the phrase ‘tall poppy’ means too.

Principals have said that they appreciate the additional support coming from overseas, but there’s still some apprehension about integrating overseas-trained teachers seamlessly into their schools. Ensuring that these teachers are well-equipped to understand and embrace Aotearoa’s unique cultural landscape is crucial (something the Visa process does little to prepare you for).

Fostering a culture of inclusivity, mutual understanding, and professional development opportunities could help bridge potential gaps in cultural awareness or teaching philosophies. Furthermore, streamlining the processes for recognising international qualifications and providing better support services for overseas-trained teachers during the relocation and job-seeking phases could also alleviate some of the financial and logistical burdens they face.

Gratitude for Addressing Shortages

On the other hand, many educators are thankful for the government’s proactive measures to address the forecast teacher shortage, particularly in secondary schools. The expansion of the School Onsite Training Programme (SOTP) to include primary and intermediate levels is seen as a positive step.

The SOTP’s initiative will provide real-world experience under the guidance of experienced mentors; invaluable for aspiring teachers, and beneficial for existing leaders to be given the opportunity to mentor students and use their leadership skills.

The 670 study awards and support grants for aspiring teachers are also welcomed by many in the education community. These financial assistance initiatives can help make teacher training more accessible and attractive, potentially drawing more candidates into the profession.

For aspiring teachers from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds, these grants can provide a much-needed boost, promoting greater diversity and inclusivity within the teaching workforce. Initiatives like these help level the playing field and ensure that financial constraints don’t prevent talented individuals from pursuing a career in education.

There is hope that the SOTP will encourage more teachers into the workforce. AdobeStock by Halfpoint

Practical Considerations

As school leaders delve into the details of the announcement, their focus shifts to the practical implications on staffing and resourcing. The prospect of hosting trainee teachers through the SOTP, while exciting, also raises logistical concerns.

There will be a need to carefully assess school’s capacity to provide quality mentorship while maintaining their current standards of teaching and learning.

Resourcing is another area of consideration, with the costs contribution for schools working with trainee teachers being a welcomed relief. There will need to be a strategy in how to allocate these funds effectively. Balancing the expenses of training, mentoring, and the school’s regular operations will be crucial.

As the education community grapples with the implications of this investment, addressing skepticism through open dialogue, fostering a culture of collaboration between local and international teachers, and providing ample support for schools during the implementation phase will be critical to the success of these initiatives.

Ultimately, the collective goal remains the same: to strengthen our teaching workforce.

By embracing diverse perspectives, promoting inclusivity, and working together, maybe we can turn this investment into a transformative force that elevates our education system.

This article has been republished with the author’s permission from their blog Engaging Learning Voices. You can read the original version here. 

School News

School News is not affiliated with any government agency, body or political party. We are an independently owned, family-operated magazine.
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