Low staffing levels problem

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Staffing levels in many Clutha primary schools are critically low.

Balclutha Primary School principal Paddy Ford, said that many principals in the Clutha District face the daily challenge of not having enough staff on hand to deliver the high standards of education they all want to impart to their charges.

A teacher and principal for 38 years, Mr Ford said he and his staff faced this conundrum every day.

“Honestly I’m really struggling, I have never known it to be this bad in 30 years of being a principal.

He said his relieving budget for the year was already spent by August.

“On Monday I three teachers away and just couldn’t find relievers.”

Mr Ford said some mornings his deputy principal can spend over an hour on the phone trying to find a relieving teacher, once they find one it takes an hour to get here and that’s an hour lost.

“There hasn’t been a week this term where we haven’t had to shift people around to cover classes, my DP has even had to go in and teach instead of doing her essential admin roles,

“We have guaranteed the board that the education of their children would not be interrupted, we have maintained that promise, but man it’s been hard.” He said adding that there has always been a warm body in front of the children.

“I believe we have got to the stage we are at now because the increased pressure on schools and teachers is making it a less attractive job than what it used to be.” He said.

“Teachers are far, far busier than they ever used to be, and we have been asked to do more and more,

“The assessment tasks are huge and all these new initiatives that have created more work.”

Mr Ford said teachers were now being asked to help pupils understand core values, health and safety and even personal hygiene, topics they perceived were once parental matters.

Lately there had been a 40% drop in teacher applicants at the University of Otago and that worried him.

“I love my job. It’s given me opportunities and experiences I would never get in any other profession, but if you are an 18-year-old and you are going to go to university for three years then you could be an engineer or a surveyor and you will start off on a bigger salary than what teachers do.”

Mr Ford said he was astounded by the hours of work his teachers did.

“They organise sports, cultural groups, choirs, PTA meetings, have their own training and professional development to complete plus attend language schools from five to seven at night.

“The most hits on the New Zealand teachers resources sites are between nine and 10o’clock at night. That’s how late they are working to prepare for the next day.

“I love this job, but they are going to have to do something to attract more applicants and they should start with the hours and the conditions.

“We have great schools here in Clutha, great teachers, good boards and the kids here get a great deal but we really do need some more people to apply for the job.”