Designing our education workforce for the future

Issue: Volume 97, Number 22

Posted: 6 December 2018
Reference #: 1H9pXQ

Secretary for Education Iona Holsted discusses a big question – how should our education workforce in the 21st century look and be supported?

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Tony Kidd teaching students from St Thomas of Canterbury College.

Much has changed in the world and in New Zealand over the past few decades. While there have been reviews of parts of the education system over that time, there has never been such a comprehensive end-to-end review of the system as is now underway. Oddly, there has also never been a strategic discussion about what skills and attributes it takes to effectively deliver teaching and learning, and how technological advances and other innovations might be changing this. 

We know that quality teaching is the most important in-school factor for young people’s learning, but we have never asked: What is the nature of the wider education workforce that we need to support teachers to do their best work?

This is the key question underpinning the development of an Education Workforce Strategy covering early learning and schooling. The strategy, which we are developing in partnership with a large group of sector representatives, is taking a wide view of what capability we need in our early learning services and schools. 

While there are different demands on teachers depending on their early learning or school circumstances, we know that too often teachers carry out supervisory roles, such as lunchtime and break duties, and during school bus times; or administrative activities, such as school supply orders and recording attendance; or tasks associated with compliance that do not require high levels of teaching experience.  It would seem logical to think about what administrative and corporate support is needed to attend to these tasks.

Principals and senior teachers largely manage all of their own human resource issues – it is rare, for example, for a school to have human resource expertise on the staff even though they may be employing 100 people. 

Teachers find themselves needing to become experts in everything because of the lack of specialist staff such as data analysts, or digital technologists.

The Education Workforce Strategy is an important opportunity to fundamentally review the nature of the workforce required in our early learning services and schools, at a system level, in a way that we have not done before.

Our education system and the children and young people who it serves are diverse. It is important that this diversity is catered for, both in the make-up and competencies of the workforce. It’s also important that teachers are free to do what they, and only they, can do – teach. 

This is an ongoing conversation, with the Education Workforce Strategy due to be completed mid next year. Following that an action plan will be in place toward the end of 2019.

I’d like to thank the (more than 20) sector representatives on the Education Workforce Governance Group for the time, energy and expertise they are contributing to this. Thank you also to all those of you who are brainstorming and providing feedback to this work through your representatives.

You can find out more about this work at (external link)

Iona Holsted, Secretary for Education

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Children playing at Stoke Montessori School.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:02 pm, 6 December 2018

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