Principals want changes to bureaucratic rigmarole schools face when hiring teachers from overseas

Severe teaching shortages coupled with the massive surge in winter illnesses are forcing schools to close. 

With a shortage of teachers here, schools need to bring in more from overseas. But Newshub can reveal the bureaucratic rigmarole that's stalling the process.

Lunchtime at Birkdale Intermediate on Thursday meant barren basketball courts and empty playgrounds. The school has closed for five days because so many teachers are sick.

It's not the only one.

"Schools are finding it hard to stay open," said Steven Hargreaves, the principal at Macleans College on the other side of Auckland.

He's doing everything he can to keep kids in class.

"The reason for that is that we know if we do close the school and go to remote learning, when we reopen students don't return," said Hargreaves. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he's "aware that the system is under a lot of pressure".

Schools simply need more teachers. There are currently more than 1000 vacancies across the education sector. But schools wanting to bring in teachers from overseas are having to fork out cash and fill in forms.

"Why we can't be registered centrally as accredited teachers is a mystery," said Hargreaves.

But Immigration Minister Michael Wood believes it's "not an overly burdensome process". 

"We turn it around I think in between 10 and 20 days," he said.

Every employer - including every single state school - wanting to hire someone from overseas has to apply to be an accredited employer, pay $610 for a job check to make sure it's been offered to Kiwis first and have their potential employee pass a check.

"Unnecessary costs, unnecessary administrative burden on schools. We're short on teachers, we've got a staffing crisis, surely someone can streamline that process for us," said Hargreaves.

Schools have asked ministers if they can automatically become accredited employers because every public teacher has exactly the same collective contract.

"It is a complicated conversation to have but I'm hoping a complicated conversation turns into a simple solution," said Vaughan Couillault, the Secondary Principals' Association president. 

But that simple solution simply won't happen with Wood saying he won't be changing the process.

"There is in my view no good argument for taking one particular sector and giving it special treatment over and above other sectors."

National's education and immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford said it "absolutely needs to be scrapped". 

"Schools have much better things to be spending their money on than a tick-box, rubberstamp exercise that Immigration NZ are putting them through," she said. 

The Immigration Minister says the process is there to avoid migrant exploitation which he says schools aren't immune from. He clearly has no appetite to change it, which will be bad news for schools desperate for teachers.