'We've been desperate': Overseas teachers brought in as schools suffer shortage

One week out from the start of the school year, and there's a shortage of more than 260 teachers. 

In response, the Ministry of Education has widened its search for staff overseas. 

While several thousand people said they were interested in coming to New Zealand to teach, so far just over 200 have been offered jobs. 

Heath McNeil, Ormiston Primary School principal, says overseas recruiting was the only way he could fill jobs at his south Auckland school.

Ormiston Primary's school roll is growing fast, and is facing a shortage of 10 teachers this year. Finding staff hasn't been easy.

"We had been fairly desperate. It's been a seven-month journey to get here," Mr McNeil says.

The school has now recruited a teacher from the UK, and another from Colorado in the United States.

"They've really added a lot of diversity and a lot of strengths to our teaching team," he says.

The Ministry of Education says the pressure is being felt country-wide, and hiring a foreign teacher is a quick solution.

The overseas recruitment drive attracted more than 7000 applications. So far, 200 teachers have been offered jobs and another 1000 have been screened and are ready to be interviewed by principals.

Most come from the UK and Ireland, and some are from South Africa, the US, Canada and Australia.

And while the ministry encourages schools with vacancies to come forward, the teachers union says hiring overseas staff is a band-aid approach that won't last.

"What we really need to see is the addressing of the issues of why people aren't choosing teaching as a career," Lynda Stuart, NZEI president, says.

"The teaching shortage was a major justification for the teacher's strikes last year.

"They said a heavy workload and low pay made it harder to recruit new teachers in New Zealand, which is why the Government allowed a larger number to come from overseas."


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