Graduate scheme breaching employment legislation

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A scheme that places teachers in jobs has been breaking the law by placing people in schools before the position has been advertised, according to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

However, the Ministry of Education has reportedly fought to keep the system in place, claiming that the schools where it has been used report the scheme is making a difference.

Teach First – a scheme that started in the UK – has university graduates undertake an intensive eight week training program before they are placed in a paid trainee position within a lower performing secondary school for two years.

The ERA recently spoke out about the system, stating that the positions being filled by Teach First participants were teaching jobs, and should be advertised before being filled by the best candidate available.

In order for the program to continue, it is likely that the law will have to change.

Lisa Rodgers, head of Early Learning and Student Achievement at Teach First, told HRM that the organisation is looking to resolve the issues flagged up by the PPTA.

“Our door remains open, as it has been since the Teach First NZ programme began, to resolve any issues that the Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) might have,” she explained.

“This programme is putting some of our brightest and best graduates into classrooms in lower decile communities to help their kids do their very best.

“We’ve heard strong support from many principals and schools who say it is making a positive difference for them.  An independent evaluation also highlighted its success and positive impact.”

Rogers added that Teach First was carefully considering the ERA’s decision, and seeking further advice before determining its next steps.

“A key part of our focus is that all the students concerned continue with their training and that is what we expect to happen,” she said.

She added that the ministry was considering the ruling before taking any further steps.

PPTA president Angela Roberts – who made the complaint to the ERA – told Radio New Zealand that she hoped the organisation would respect the authority’s ruling.

“They’ve had these options to talk about and consider and actually get done for a very long time, and what they did was take a risk, take a punt, knowing that we were going to the authority and not really considering what they may have to do if they were proven wrong,” she said.

In September, the Ministry of Education published an evaluation of the Teach First scheme.

It was found that “in general, the Teach First NZ programme has been implemented effectively and efficiently, and that it has benefited rather than suffered from doubling in size”.

The report stated that the key success elements of the Teach First NZ programme were:
  • the robust selection process resulting in high-calibre participants
  • the responsiveness of the programme – in part made possible because of the small size of the programme – but also a consequence of the robust partnership between Teach First NZ and the Faculty of Education
  • effective support and mentoring for participants from the school and partnership personnel
  • immersion in the classroom, coupled with opportunities for participants’ critical reflection on themselves and their teaching
“The successful implementation of all these elements is critical for an employment-based programme,” the report read.

“While there is variability in the way these elements play out, particularly in relation to mentoring and in-school support, in combination they provide a powerful platform for this model of an alternative pathway into secondary teaching.”

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