Experimental teacher education yet another Band-Aid

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that the Teach First NZ (TFNZ) scheme is poorly conceived and targeted if the aim is to reduce educational inequalities among the most disadvantaged children in New Zealand. 

The TFNZ scheme effectively puts unqualified teachers with no experience in the classrooms of students with the most challenging of educational, family and local community needs. 

Teach First NZ's latest campaign promotes its scheme as a way for potential applicants to "make a difference" by building their CVs and developing leadership skills among children suffering economic hardship. It is marketed as a charitable solution to educational inequalities where everyone ‘wins’. In reality, it is a business leadership coaching programme, aimed at encouraging graduates who might not otherwise have considered education as a career, into teaching for a few years. 

According to Professor John O’Neill, CPAG Education Spokesperson, the TFNZ programme is, "A very expensive way of experimenting with the life chances of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children. Those who partner, fund, participate in and champion the TFNZ scheme no doubt have the best of motivations, but the scheme is no long-term fix for the one in four children who live in poverty and the one in five children who do not achieve the successes they might do at school with more generous government support as a matter of children’s rights.

"The Government stands to gain very little from the incentive, and there is no evidence to suggest that TFNZ is producing better results than other institutes." 

At the end of their 'training' TFNZ graduates are granted a full scholarship towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching. The programme is paid for by a combination of Government subsidies and venture philanthropy. 

 "It is not Government’s job to rely on charities to put Band-Aids on the problem of finding great teachers to teach in the most challenging classrooms and schools. Government’s job is to find enough money to have our best qualified, most experienced and most committed teachers supporting those children whose educational needs are greatest," says Professor O’Neill.

As well as providing adequate funding for low decile schools to ensure that all children have access to the highest quality teaching and learning, Government could be strengthening family incomes to ensure that children’s material needs are adequately met in the home. 

Evidence shows that a lack of income contributes directly to poor educational outcomes. Instead of supporting experimental teaching programmes that put children’s learning at risk for ideological reasons, Government should be Fixing Working for Families so that it is more robust and supportive for low-income families.