No extra pay for Auckland teachers, despite shortage

Education Minister Nikki Kaye has ruled out paying Auckland teachers more to make up for the ballooning cost of accommodation in the country's fastest-growing city.

A number of schools contacted by The Nation this week reported trouble hiring new staff. One said it two vacancies, but only received seven applications - none of them from anyone with the required level of experience.

Starter teachers are only paid between $47,000 and $50,000, and half end up quitting within five years.

"We've invested additional funds for those schools in Auckland who may need to provide further support," Ms Kaye told The Nation on Saturday, "but it's not going to be via salaries."

There are currently around 300 teacher vacancies at schools in Auckland - around 1.5 percent of all positions empty. Ms Kaye said that's not "necessarily unusual for any workforce".

Her comments come the day after she announced a $21 million boost for new classrooms in the super city. Thirty-four of those are new, and seven are to replace old classrooms. They'll provide another 680 student places.

"That's on top of about $400 million we've announced in the last couple of years. You've got to understand we've got 21,000 student places in the pipeline [over the next four years]," says Ms Kaye.

Projections say Auckland's student population is set to grow by between 60,000 and 100,000 in the next three decades. Ms Kaye says this is why the Government is embarking on what it calls the largest capital expenditure programme in New Zealand's history to keep up.

"I don't have enough time to cut the ribbons that exist across New Zealand because we've put so much money into school buildings."

Some schools told The Nation they're already housing kids in prefab classrooms without running water or putting up to 36 children with a single teacher.

"You can see in some schools they've been over-capacity, and I've said to the ministry we need to do a lot better in terms of looking at what the real-time situation is in terms of schools. We only get twice-yearly roll returns, and you've got quite a complex range of things happening," said Ms Kaye.

As for substandard classroom, she put the blame squarely on the previous Labour Government, which hasn't been in power for almost a decade.

"When we came into Government, we were handed leaky buildings, school buildings that were 40 years old. I'm very confident we've both reformed the system and we're spending the investment required to get ahead of growth."

Other plans on Ms Kaye's plate include scrapping the decile system. She hopes to have a replacement lined up before the election. Ideally, it would avoid perceptions that schools in poorer areas offer poorer education, as some parents believe under the current system - despite lower-decile schools getting more funding from the Government.

"It depends the way that you do it. I think it's possible. When I go into decile 1 schools, some of the children say to me, they feel they do get labelled."

There are no plans to link school funding to student performance, she said..