Center on International Education Benchmarking

New Zealand: Teacher and Principal Quality

New Zealand was among the countries CIEB profiled in 2015. This profile has been archived and is no longer being updated.

Teacher Recruitment and Compensation

Teachers’ starting salaries in New Zealand are competitive. The average salary for a lower secondary school teacher with 10 years of experience in 2017 was US$46,963.  However, the structure of teachers’ wages is flat; at the top of the scale, teachers’ salaries are 1.1 times the GDP per capita, which is lower than the OECD average. This salary structure, combined with what used to be limited career progressions, have generated significant difficulties in attracting top-performing students into teaching. In addition, New Zealand has faced teacher shortages in the areas of science, math, and English as well as in more isolated rural schools and in densely populated areas of Auckland. Hundreds of vacancies due to a dwindling teacher supply has led some principals to search abroad for qualified candidates. Recent reforms have tried to make teaching a more attractive profession to attract strong candidates. For example, in 2014, Education Minister Hekia Parata proposed new career ladders for teachers and principals. The Investing in Educational Success initiative creates four new tiers of teachers to encourage more people to teach by giving them additional career options.  This reform has not been implemented as proposed, but there have been efforts to create new roles for teachers in leading teacher learning teams within and across school.

The New Zealand Ministry of Education also runs the TeachNZ program, which manages teacher recruitment from within New Zealand as well as from abroad. TeachNZ provides incentives to teachers and potential teachers such as small scholarships for continuing education, and also serves as a repository of information about teacher education and career prospects.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of students completing initial teacher education for primary and secondary education declined by a third. In response, a the end of 2017, the government announced an almost US$7 million teacher supply package that includes:

  • extending an existing bonding scheme that provides new teachers incentive payments for teaching in lower performing and severely isolated schools or in high-demand subject areas;
  • covering the cost of professional development courses for experienced teachers whose certifications are at risk of expiring;
  • making it easier for overseas teachers to work in New Zealand, as long as they meet New Zealand requirements; and
  • funding a marketing campaign to entice new teachers and to persuade more former teachers to return to the job.

Teacher Initial Education and Training

Teacher education programs are regulated by the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (EDUCANZ), which in 2014 replaced the New Zealand Teachers Council as the country’s professional and regulatory body for teachers. Unlike the Teachers Council, EDUCANZ is independent of the government and goes beyond solely setting standards to also develop leadership within the teaching profession. EDUCANZ is responsible for setting teacher standards, registering teachers, providing professional leadership, managing discipline issues with teachers, and setting requirements and approving initial teacher education programs.

There are no uniform admissions standards into teacher education programs. Programs generally require an applicant to have a solid academic record and an expressed interest in working with children. In general, because teacher applicants must gain entrance to university, they must have attained at least NCEA qualification level 3 (completion of secondary school). But there is no evidence that teacher education providers have scaled up their entry requirements beyond that benchmark.

Currently, there are 23 providers of teacher education that offer a total of 156 approved initial teacher preparation programs, leading to 80 different forms of qualification. There are almost no alternative routes. Preparation programs may offer either three-year bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, four-year bachelor’s degrees in education, or one-year master’s degrees in education for students who already have a bachelor’s in another subject. Two-thirds of students enrolled in secondary teacher education earn a degree in the subject they plan to teach, followed by a one-year graduate program in secondary teaching, which includes a clinical component. Three-fourths of aspiring primary teachers earn an undergraduate teaching degree.

Upon graduation, teachers apply for provisional certification and, once employed, participate in a two-year induction and mentoring program before they can apply for full certification. Beginning teachers are mentored by experienced teachers. There are guidelines for induction and mentoring that have been in use since 2011 following a period of extensive research and a national pilot program.

To attain full certification, teachers must meet the Standards for the Teaching Profession, a set of national standards for teaching. Implemented in 2010, the standards describe the essential knowledge and capabilities required for quality teaching and must be met by those seeking full certification as well as renewal of certification. Fully certified teachers are required to renew their certificates every three years, showing clear evidence of professional development (there is no required minimum number of hours). Teachers are expected to submit a log documenting coursework, seminars, action research, leadership roles or other professional activities.

In addition, another new designation called Advanced Classroom Expertise Teachers was created for primary school teachers.  To become an Advanced Classroom Expertise Teacher, teachers must have at least six years of experience and have “classroom practice that is demonstrably higher than the Experienced Teacher Professional Standards” of the New Zealand Framework for Professional Teaching Standards. (These standards are detailed at three levels: beginning teachers, fully certificated teachers and experienced teachers.)  Teachers must create a portfolio of evidence that includes: exemplary use of evidence and research to inform practice; exemplary engagement with families to improve outcomes for children; leadership in developing practice amongst peers; and exemplary ongoing professional learning and development. Teachers receive a $5,000 per year stipend.  The number of teachers with this designation is capped at 800 across the country

Teacher Career Ladders

In 2014, after the country’s fall in PISA scores, then-Education Minister Hekia Parata announced a plan, known as Investing in Educational Success, to provide $261 million USD a year to raise student achievement. Under the plan, schools would form Communities of Learning to share ideas and support one another in order to improve teaching and learning.

As part of the plan, the Ministry proposed creating new roles for teachers to enable them to take on additional responsibilities and earn additional pay while remaining in the classroom. These roles would allow teachers who demonstrated competency to take on leadership roles within schools and across schools in the Community of Learning. Specifically, the initiative would create four new teacher and leadership roles, divided across two tracks (teaching and leadership): Lead Teacher, Expert Teacher, Executive Principal, and Change Principal.

The design had caps on the numbers of teachers and principals who could reach each of these positions: up to 5,000 Lead Teachers, 1,000 Expert Teachers, 250 Executive Principals and 20 Change Principals.  The Lead Teachers would make their classrooms open so that any teacher could come in, observe and learn from them.  Expert Teachers would divide their time between teaching and mentoring, both in their own school and other schools in their community.  Both Lead Teachers and Expert Teachers would receive additional pay.  Expert Teachers could advance to become principals, with additional levels of pay and responsibility.  Executive Principals would work part time at other schools in the community and receive additional pay to mentor their peer at a lower performing school.  They would be accountable to the Ministry for the results of both their schools. Change Principals would be the most qualified and experienced principals, and the only ones who can be appointed to turn around the lowest performing schools.

The initiative also proposed creating incentive pay to attract highly qualified principals to work in high-needs schools and creating “communities of learning” wherein groups of schools work together to collaborate to improve student performance.

The main teachers’ union boycotted the plan at first, until changes were made in 2015, Under the new design, three new roles were designated to lead these: Community of Learning Leader; Across School Teacher; and Within School Teacher. The roles only require teachers (or principals) to meet professional standards, but they do have significant responsibilities. The leader is a principal and is given 40 percent release time to coordinate and develop the community of learning “achievement plan,” support the professional growth of teachers and principals in the community, and provide leadership across communities and schools. The across school teacher is a teacher and is also given 40 percent release time. The within school teacher has only about 10 percent release time. The within school teacher is tasked with leading the “inquiry approach” to teaching and learning within the school. The communities of learning have an impressive set of tools and criteria for teachers to use, and “expert partners,” “change managers,” and specialized Ministry staff are assigned to help guide the work. More than two-thids of schools are now part of Communities of Learning.

Teacher Professional Development

In 2014, the Ministry announced a major overhaul of professional development. Previously, professional development had been managed through a number of organizations, including the Ministry of Education, which provided guidelines for teacher training as well as curriculum resources and scholarships to pursue higher education. A report by an advisory group, however, had found that the structure had failed to meet schools’ needs or raise student achievement.

The new system focuses professional development on a small number of national priorities in the areas of mathematics, science, reading and writing, digital fluency, and a pilot in health and physical education. These priorities are based on student data providing evidence of where the biggest challenges are. In addition, the system places a priority on schools that form Communities of Learning under the Investing in Education Success initiative, and on regions with persistent low performance, particularly Northland and Gisborne/East Coast.

As part of the Investing in Educational Success policy, $7.3 million USD was dedicated to a Teacher-led Innovation Fund to allow primary, intermediate, and secondary teachers in state and state-integrated schools to apply for funding to support inquiry-based, collaborative projects to support student learning, particularly with underserved student populations.

In 2017, the Ministry announced that, as of January 2018, responsibility for professional development will be transferred to the Education Council (EDUCANZ), an independent organization that is responsible for teacher education and registry. The Ministry also announced that it would provide an additional $17.5 million USD for three years, on top of the $47.3 million USD provided annually for professional development, for professional learning for the digital technology curriculum.

In addition to the formal professional development, Communities of Learning are expected to contribute to teachers’ ongoing development by enabling them to collaborate and share expertise. Teachers can seek advice from expert partners and “change managers” from the Ministry.

School Leader Development

In 2008, the Ministry of Education released Kiwi Leadership for Principals which outlines the key elements and responsibilities of school leaders, based on two years of conversations with primary and secondary principals’ groups, researchers, leadership advisors, the unions, and professional associations.

Although principals have responsibility for the administrative day-to-day management of individual schools, elected Boards of Trustees serve many of the functions that principals would in the United States. These Boards are elected by the school community—teachers, parents, and students (only at the secondary level)—and are responsible for vision-setting, strategic planning, budgeting, assessment and evaluation, administration, and curriculum decisions. The principal serves as a member of the board by default, but does not chair it and reports to the board as a whole. Principals are expected to be instructional leaders for the staff, adept at keeping the building running smoothly and also at ensuring that teachers are being developed and trained.

All staff are employees of the board, not the Ministry. The Boards are responsible for performance evaluation of principals annually. Annual evaluation is a requirement for renewal of a principal’s practicing educator certificate.

To be hired in administrative roles, interested principals apply to schools’ Boards of Trustees. First-year principals are provided with coaches (“Leadership Advisors”) who are hired and assigned by regional education offices. Leadership Advisors provide on-on-one support to help them with strategic planning, developing professional support networks, and establishing good working relationships with their board chair and board, staff and community.

New Zealand focuses on grooming interested teachers and school staff for leadership, rather than requiring principals to undertake a set of academic qualifications. Principals in New Zealand must have been teachers. Prior to 2017, they were required to complete a National Aspiring Principals Program. This program was a year-long set of seminars, tailored to participants’ needs and interests, which was designed for aspiring teacher leaders to take while they continued to serve in the classroom. Following completion, participants could become principals or assistant principals, but they were required to complete an induction program, the First-Time Leaders Program, in the first year.

Starting in 2017, these programs are being phased out, and New Zealand no longer funds principal preparation programs, although the government has supported a pilot program to help prepare emerging leaders in four Communities of Learning. The Secondary Principals Association has co-funded a Masters in Education program for aspiring principals, which is run by Victoria University’s schools of education and business. The program combines coursework with opportunities to shadow principals in schools around the country.

Source: OECD Education at a Glance 2019 (salaries) and OECD (GDP Per Capita)