Teachers have rejected reports thousands of would-be foreign educators have been turned down after applying for work in New Zealand.
Documents obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act last week showed the Government's offshore recruitment drive had attracted more than 9000 applicants, but only 240 had been hired.
"They've got people who have applied, but haven't even been interviewed," National education spokesperson Nikki Kaye said on Saturday. "That's problematic."
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The Government's put $40 million into filling gaps in the education system this year, including running a social media campaign and contacting former Kiwi teachers who've gone overseas for better pay.
Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) president Jack Boyle told The AM Show on Monday it's "not the truth" that principals and the Ministry of Education have rejected more than 8000 applicants.
"Nine thousand people clicking on a website is not the same as 9000 people ready to teach in New Zealand. That number we're told is 1000."
He said the problem with those who haven't been hired is their skills don't match what's needed, or they don't want to live where in places where their skills are in demand.
"I was talking to a teacher in Westport the other day - they were having a really hard time getting hold of a maths teacher."
To fill the gap, he says teachers are having to cover subjects they're not trained to teach, which isn't ideal.
PPTA members say if they don't get more out of the Government in the next few weeks, they'll be striking on April 3.
"We are still desperately keen to avoid having to take a strike on that day, and we believe that that is possible, because we have been working productively in negotiations - it's just that the Government has not yet stumped up sufficient money to keep us in classrooms on that date.
"We are hopeful, but that is the date where if we haven't got a settlement, then we will be publicly protesting the fact we can't get the brightest and best teachers in New Zealand. We can't get them staying in classes. They're burning out, if they come at all."
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While the PPTA and its primary school equivalent, the New Zealand Educational Institute, have been in talks about holding joint protests, they haven't yet discussed synchronising industrial action.
"If they haven't been able to get what they need to ensure the best possible people are in front of their students by April 3, we'd welcome them being with us."
Teachers' morale is 'very low'
National Party leader Simon Bridges says the teachers have been let down by the Government.
"Morale is very low, with a lot of uncertainty," he told The AM Show. "I think it ultimately comes down to one word: priorities. This is a Government that talked a big game, they set the expectations and now they are not delivering."
He said the Govenrment made a mistake in putting money towards the tertiary fees-free scheme, the Provincial Growth Fund and working groups.
"I'm simply saying if I was the Prime Minister, my priorities would be three, and that'd be where the money goes - health, education, infrastructure."
Under the previous National-led Government, teacher pay rose only 13 percent - dropping from 2 percent more than the average salary to 14 percent below.
Ellen MacGregor-Reid, deputy secretary, Early Learning and Student Achievement, Ministry of Education said the government’s made a significant investment ($40 million) to increase the supply of qualified teachers from overseas and at home for schools to hire. The supply is there to meet demand.
"Our overseas recruitment agencies are providing schools with science, technology and maths teachers.
"They have placed 243 qualified overseas teachers in roles - 97 have been secondary teachers, of which 57 teach science, technology or maths.
"These overseas teachers are also flexible about where they go. Five overseas qualified teachers have accepted roles at West Coast, Nelson and Marlborough secondary schools. These five include two maths teachers."
This article was amended on March 5 2019 to include comment from the Ministry of Education.