Rural schools look to online classes

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Some rural schools are struggling to find enough teachers for next year.

Principals told RNZ it was hard enough attracting New Zealand teachers to jobs in the country, but this year they had the added complication of border restrictions that prevented them hiring staff from overseas.

Areas Schools Association president Stephen Beck says some rural schools could not attract a good selection of candidates for their vacancies, especially in specialist subjects like maths and science, and for senior primary school roles.

He says some schools are planning to use online teaching for certain specialist subjects next year because they could not find teachers.

"It's mainly in areas like design and visual communication, ICT, computer technology, those type of courses where a course can be successful online.

"They're finding that is the only option for a number of their students, especially in that senior secondary area."

He says inability to recruit from overseas is creating a headache for some schools.

Traci Liddall from Otorohanga College says she has been trying to find a head of maths all year.

"We have advertised five times in the year that I've been here for a head of department, maths, and we have not been able to appoint anybody."

Liddall says the school has an acting head of maths, but it really needs a permanent appointee in the position.

"It's critical. Maths is a keystone subject area and it's critical that we have somebody who can lead the change that's needing to happen in the school but also knows their subject inside and out," she said.

Liddall says the school has received some applications, but most are from overseas teachers who knew nothing about the NCEA system, and the few local applicants did not have enough experience or could not teach beyond their subject area.

She says the school nearly ran into the same problem with a science vacancy, which it was lucky to fill late last year with a teacher returning from overseas.

"It was pretty touch and go, she was the only one we interviewed."

Liddall says teachers often did not realise that a rural school could be good for career advancement.

"Three or four years here with us will give you a really good grounding to move on to bigger things."

-RNZ/John Gerritsen

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