New Zealand's primary school teacher shortage met following COVID-19 pandemic

There haven't been many good things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Ministry of Education says it's found one - an end to the primary school teacher shortage.

Thanks to overseas returnees, Kiwis staying in their job, and others re-entering the profession, supply is expected to meet demand for a few years to come.

Ellen MacGregor-Reid, deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement at the Ministry of Education, said COVID-19 is helping to close gaps in the teacher shortfall.

"The retention rate for teachers is really high and we're expecting it to grow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.

She said supply will meet demand from next year for at least three years in the primary school sector.

"We have new teacher trainees, we have career changes, we have Kiwis returning home, and of course we've still got some great overseas teachers in the country."

Secondary schools still have supply issues, but it is nowhere near as bad as first thought.

By 2023 it was estimated the country would be down by more than 1200 secondary teachers. 

One year, and a global pandemic later, the predicted gap has closed dramatically over the next three years, with the shortage in 2023 decreasing to just 100. 

"Now's not the time to take our eye off the ball, we're going to keep focusing on increasing domestic supply," MacGregor-Reid said.

Angela Wall is one New Zealander who's returned to being a teacher. She was let go from her job at Air New Zealand earlier in the year after the virus crippled the aviation industry.

"It just was very coincidental but lucky enough that a position was available at this school, which actually I taught at prior to joining Air New Zealand," she said.

She's now slotted back into her old way of life at Mount Carmel School in Auckland.

"It's nice to have weekends back, and school holidays and all those sorts of things."