Primary school principals are warning the disruptions to children’s learning will continue this term, with new analysis from NZEI Te Riu Roa showing the chronic shortage of relief teachers is the continuation of a worrying long-term trend that requires urgent attention.
NZEI Te Riu Roa analysed new Government data which shows there was a 34 percent decrease in the available pool of day relief teachers in primary schools between 2012 and 2021.
This decrease was felt across the country, with Waikato and Wellington experiencing the biggest regional declines of 40 percent.
Waikanae’s Kapakapanui School Principal Craig Vidulich says the current situation is tricky and term two has been difficult.
“Overall our school has managed ok but there have been some occasions where there have been no relieving teachers available at all.”
Principal Vidulich says illness has been a major factor.
“We have had many staff ill and isolating and with no, or only a few relief teachers available, we have used the option of split classes. Other schools have had it much worse and have required learning from home days.”
He says the impact of Covid is still being felt along with the flu doing the rounds.
“Our school wasn’t hit as bad as some with Covid, luck of the draw really, but the shortage of relief teachers is a concern.”
NZEI Te Riu Roa is currently campaigning for an in-depth review of the relieving workforce, however, president Liam Rutherford is concerned about the lack of immediate solutions being offered by the Ministry of Education.
“The education sector could not function without relievers,” he says.
“They are an integral part of the day-to-day running of schools and faced with this ongoing shortage of relief teachers, schools are reluctantly scheduling learning from home days which places additional pressure on whanau to work around staff illnesses. Ultimately our tamariki are suffering.”
Principal Vidulich says Kapakapuni staff have been amazing at working through the pressures of Covid19 this term.
“The Kāpiti Coast has a fairly good relief pool but the school is always looking for good qualified relievers.”