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Rural schools have struggled to find enough help teachers during the winter season with at least one sending student because of a lack of staff.

According to official figures, there were fewer cases of flu than normal in the last few months, but the school principals told RNZ that the teacher shortage made it more difficult to find a back-up when teachers were not good or needed time to get out of the classroom. come.

Murupara Area School Director Angela Sharples said she recently had to take drastic measures when the flu left the school without half of her teachers and not enough relievers.

"We had to house our new year students, our years 9 to 13, one day, I planned to teach our senior leadership team and then we had two employees who got sick that morning and I just did not feel like part of the school could open safely. "

Mrs. Sharples said she should never have closed a part of her school because of the absence of teachers.

"In my opinion, the shortage of teachers has gotten worse, because I have been the most important one here in Murupara, but that combination of poor teacher supply, poor help from teachers and then illness – I just could not think of a suitable solution."

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She said it had become more difficult to find relievers since the introduction of the requirement that teachers who had not completed their teaching calculation would receive training every six years.

She said the school had a van to drive teachers and relievers from Rotorua at 50 minutes.

Ms. Sharples said that children in remote areas earned training of an equally high standard as those in urban areas.

The director of the Tuakau College in the neighborhood of Pukekohe and Pokeno, Chris Betty, said that the 48 teachers at his school had registered 330 sick days this year, which was a lot.

He recently said that the school of 600 students could not find any help teachers at all.

"We had five relievers we wanted and we could not find them," he said.

Mr Betty said the school was forced to combine some lessons and leave senior lessons without supervision.

He said it was not at all unusual to find any relievers, but the school had to leave regular lessons without supervision because of a lack of teachers.

"Sometimes we do not put relievers in senior lessons, year 13 classes, because they are 17, 18 year olds, they are themselves quite responsible. Maybe we have someone who visits that class to check them in. Every week I have a class, I would average year-round thinking. In the flu season, it can be two or three classes, "Mr Betty said.

Grant Burns, president of the Area School Association, said that relievers are not only more difficult to find in rural areas than in urban areas, they were also more expensive because of their travel expenses.

"We've certainly noticed that costs have risen, in fact, have risen more than rises, have sprung up in this school for the last five years. It was about $ 25,000 per year that we spent on aid, now it's about $ 100,000 a year. the school has grown in that time, but not to that extent.

Mr. Burns said that a reason for rising costs at his school was a growing reluctance to ask staff to cover their peers in the time they would use to prepare lessons.

He said that finding help teachers was time-consuming and it would be ideal if the government set up a central agency to do the job.

"What I would like to see is a middle layer of government in a district that takes the daily jostle of relievers out of the hands of clients or their delegated employees," he said.

"It would be nice if we could just call and say to the local Ministry of Justice, yes, we still need three relievers today, and they can hang up the phone, knowing that those relievers would come.

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But at the moment we have schools that are competing, all scrambling for a limited group of relievers. & # 39;

According to Mr. Burns, the jury was difficult for schools because it was never clear how long a teacher was absent.

He said that traveling times also made it difficult to find relievers that cover short periods, such as one or two hours a day.

By John Gerritsen

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