New Zealand has an ageing teacher workforce. Data from Education Counts shows that 8,343 of the 53,861 staff in schools are aged 60 and over (about 16 percent of the workforce). This data is not available for early learning services. There has also been a decline in the number of students commencing, or graduating from, ITE programmes since 2008. Given the likely shift in the teacher workforce profile over the next few years, it is important that teachers entering the profession are supported to develop the skills, knowledge and practices required for modern teaching and learning. Paradoxically, 42 percent of the NGTs working in schools in this evaluation were on fixed-term contracts.
In addition to the impact of the ageing workforce, teacher shortages continue in areas of greatest need, such as science, technology and mathematics, and of teachers with particular knowledge and skill such as te reo Māori. There has been significant government investment in teacher education and attempts to raise the status of the teaching profession in response to these challenges.
The Education Council is working with providers and stakeholders to redesign the ITE system to make sure new teachers are confident and well prepared when they enter the profession and have well-managed pathways to full certification. Proposals to lift and strengthen teacher education include raising the quality of practicum arrangements and replacing the Graduate Teaching Standards with the new Standards for the Teaching Profession (the Standards). The proposed changes aim to provide employers, students and the public with greater confidence that every new graduate meets the Standards (with support) when they start in their first teaching role.
ERO’s School Evaluation Indicators: Effective Practice for Improvement and Learner Success highlight the importance of addressing persistent disparities in our education system. The two domains of practice with the most influence on student outcomes are educationally powerful connections and relationships and responsive curriculum, effective teaching and opportunity to learn. The indicators note that what teachers do and know is an important influence on students’ learning and emphasise the importance of teachers being adaptive experts who can respond flexibly in complex contexts.
Several recent ERO national evaluation reports about curriculum, assessment and achievement have identified issues and concerns about leader/teacher capability to design and implement a curriculum that is responsive to all learners, particularly those whose underachievement is of concern, or those who need additional support to experience success.
Early learning services and schools are increasingly being asked to resolve complex social problems within our communities. Migration and demographic change is also changing the makeup of New Zealand’s learner population, which is increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and from increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds. The number of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages)-funded students alone increased by 2,254 students in from Term 3, 2016 to Term 2, 2017. NGTs need to be well prepared to teach children from these increasingly diverse contexts. Indeed, for our system to be effective, we need ITE providers to be responsive to the changing nature of education in the 21st century.
This is a timely and relevant evaluation, as there is considerable system-wide interest in the quality of ITE. This evaluation is not directly of ITE provision, nevertheless our findings will contribute to discussion about the role of ITE in developing a highly capable and confident teaching workforce.