More than a thousand student teachers in New Zealand will graduate this year without having completed their classroom practice requirements amid the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand said Covid-19 had forced it to think creatively, because many student teachers had been unable to complete the required number of practical hours due to seven weeks of lockdown; and more in Auckland.
As a result, the council has lowered practical requirements for new teachers by a quarter, after consulting the minister of education
Council chief executive Lesley Hoskin said the impact of the lockdown was “unfair” on student teachers, but she was confident they would be ready for classrooms nonetheless.
“Research has shown us the importance of effective practical experience,” Hoskin said. “So, we are looking at flexible and pragmatic options that ensure graduates’ preparedness to teach, but that take into account the current unprecedented reality of schools, centres and kura being in lockdown.”
Practical course requirements range from 14 to 20 weeks, and some teachers will enter classrooms after only five weeks experience – leaving them feeling unprepared. “It’s very daunting only having [five weeks] in a classroom,” one student teacher told RNZ.
The Ministry of Education said it would offer additional support for new teachers in 2021, but some had also gained experience assisting with teaching online courses to students. The council said it was working on “a more structured and specialised induction”.
Despite their lack of experience, the new cohort of teachers will be welcome in schools, amid a longstanding and chronic teacher shortage, which will be exacerbated next year by the inability to recruit foreign teachers from countries such as the UK.
The trickle of new Covid-19 cases continue in New Zealand, and on Wednesday the country registered another death, a patient who had been in intensive care since August.
The death brings the country’s death toll to 25, though for a second consecutive day there were no reported community transmission of the virus, raising hopes that the Auckland outbreak may at last be contained.
This week the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced coronavirus restrictions on social gatherings would remain in place until Monday, at which point, her government will begin to ease them if community spread appears to be controlled.
New Zealand already vanquished the virus once, in June – at one point there were no active cases of Covid-19 in the country – but a resurgence in Auckland led to a second lockdown, which is now being eased.
Three people remain in hospital with the virus.