Does he stand by his statement: “The Government is committed to a 1:15 ratio; by the end of 2008, with the other Budget to come, that is what we will have.”; if so, is he satisfied that he will have enough teachers to staff new entrant classes to ensure that by 1 January 2008 “there are no more than 15 students in a class”?
Can the Minister confirm that his officials have advised him that he has no chance of meeting the Government’s promise of a ratio of 1:18 students, let alone the promise of 1:15, because there are not enough experienced teachers to teach new entrants, and there will not be for the next 2 to 4 years, and that his officials have told him: “Our analysis suggests that approximately two-thirds of the 700 positions will not be able to be filled.”, meaning that he is short by over 400 teachers?
No, the ministry has advised me that although the situation will be tight next year, it believes that demand can be met.
What impact would the proposed introduction of bulk funding have on the available supply of teachers?
I am told that if bulk funding were introduced by, say, a future potential—possible but not likely—National Government, then schools would employ teachers for lower wages and employ less-experienced teachers as well. It would put a cap on available funding and force schools to get by on the decreasing amount, and 2,600 schools would have to negotiate their own employment agreements, leading to widespread turmoil and a complete breakdown of the national teaching profession. By contrast—good news—the Labour-led Government has put more than 5,000 teachers above those required by roll growth in front of classes.
Did his predecessor not understand how school staffing under a ministerial reference group operates, when he stated there would be no more than 15 students in any class that had first-year students; or was he simply indulging in electioneering rhetoric, thus sending on to the Minister yet another hospital pass?
No, my predecessor has an outstanding track record as the Minister of Education, and the sector acknowledged that over a period of 6 years—they are remembered as very short years. He managed to lift funding, lift the number of teachers, introduce professional development, raise the issue of leadership, get the curriculum review under way, and advance the work of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. The list is so long that, of course, that could only be Mr Trevor Mallard.
Can he confirm that his officials have told him that in order to meet the shortage of teachers next year: “some schools might have to compromise on their quality criteria to employ extra teachers.”, and how does he think principals, parents, and other teachers would feel about that?
As I said before, the ministry has advised that although the situation will be tight, demand can be met. Of course, that means that we have been putting in place a whole range of initiatives to ensure that the pressures can be addressed. If the House will bear with me, I will just read through some of the list. Study grants include the TeachNZ māori medium scholarships, the TeachNZ rural scholarships, and the TeachNZ loan support scheme for Māori medium teachers. Grants include the national relocation grant, primary and secondary; the international relocation grant, primary and secondary; transfer and removal reimbursements; the beginning teacher time allowance; the overseas teacher time allowance; the retrained teacher time allowance; and the national recruitment allowance. In other words, we have been monitoring this very closely because we are employing a lot of new teachers—for example, 5,000 above roll growth—so we are very aware of the tight situation and we are trying to address it with these kinds of measures.
Is the Minister saying that when this policy is fully actioned, every class in which there is a new entrant student will have a maximum number of 15 students?
That is a very good question, because, as the member knows, we are talking about a ratio—that is, that the equivalent number of teachers for having a 1:15 ratio is available—but, as all of the schools have argued, what they want to be able to do is to have some flexibility. There is no guarantee with John Key—I know that; it rhymes and it is true—but there is a guarantee with Labour.
In light of his answer that he will be relying heavily on the use of beginning teachers, why is he going to rely on the use of beginning teachers to take up this role when he has previously said: “to guarantee that the intent of the policy is realised, the extra teachers must be experienced teachers with the knowledge of how to teach literacy and numeracy to 5 and 6-year-olds”; so why is he covering the gaps with beginning teachers?
I do not recall anybody arguing that beginning teachers were the only people put into this particular role. In fact, one of the things we are doing here is trying to, for example, get teachers back from overseas who are fully experienced and ready to join the workforce here. I would take the member’s question more seriously if the National Government in power had done one single thing to reduce the student-pupil ratio—one single policy, and I would start to take her seriously.
With his mention of programmes to increase new graduates, can he confirm to the House that the number of teaching graduates has decreased by 30 percent between 2000 and 2005, and that of the 16,300 new graduates who graduated during that time just over a third were actually teaching in a classroom 1 year after they graduated, so just under two-thirds were lost straight after they graduated?
I know that the member has a law degree, and I understand that teachers, just like lawyers, like to travel. The fact that they might not be in the workforce immediately after their training does not mean they will not be in the workforce forever.
The member is not. She has left the legal profession; I understand that. Many other lawyers do not go straight into law, but they come back after they decide to take up the profession.
Can the Minister confirm that his own officials have advised him that he has no chance of meeting the 1:18 ratio, let alone the 1:15 ratio, and that if the only ideas he has are to crank up immigration, increase the number of beginning teachers, and cover the bases in other ways, he will undo any of the good work that lowering a ratio might do—it is more than having a ratio; it is actually delivering in the classroom?
As I said before, the ministry has advised that it will be tight, but the ministry believes it can be done. I repeat: if we are going to talk about only having ideas, I ask for one single idea from the member in relation to student-pupil ratios. When National was in power last time, it did nothing. I have not heard one single promise from her today that said anything about ratios, and until she does, no one really cares what she says.