New field-based Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Primary) responds to rural teacher shortages

Tertiary education provider Te Rito Maioha is responding to rural teacher shortages with field-based degree and graduate diploma programmes to grow new primary teachers in their own communities. 

Following the successful first year pilot of its primary teaching degree in 2021, Te Rito Maioha is now launching a one-year Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Primary) to begin in 2023*. Both programmes lead to primary teacher registration. 

“We’ve created pathways for people who have the desire and ability to be great teachers in their communities, but face barriers like distance from a campus, and whānau or work commitments,” says Kathy Wolfe, Chief Executive of Te Rito Maioha.   

“We’ve worked closely with school principals to develop both the Bachelor’s and Graduate Diploma programmes with a strongly field-based and bicultural approach.”  

Students study online, spend two days a week in their local school, plus 12 to 13 weeks of professional practice in other schools. They are mentored by teachers at the schools and Te Rito Maioha academic tutors. 

“Principals are saying they want graduates ready to teach in their communities as soon as they qualify,” says Anthony Fisher, Academic Leader of Primary Programmes. “They want graduates who understand theory and professional standards and have the experience to apply it practically in the classroom from day one.” 

Three hours north of Whangarei, Herekino School principal Virginia Shortland says teachers are hard to come by. Even relief teachers are a rare luxury for the two-classroom school. She has been filling the gap herself, stepping up to teach on top of her mahi as principal.  

She sees the Te Rito Maioha primary teaching programmes as a strategic way to nurture “homegrown” teachers with roots in the community. 

“We can’t just keep shipping people in and have them leave two years later. We need people with long-term commitment to our community and the cultural competence to make connections with our tamariki and whānau. It takes more than just pedagogical competence. 

“What I like about this pathway is that it’s relevant – pedagogically, culturally and in curriculum development – to what is actually happening in our school.” 

Based at Herekino School, teacher aide and mother of five Dyane Clyde is in her second year of the Bachelor of Teaching (Primary). After 10 years of teacher aiding, she can now further what she loves doing, studying at home and work, with the whānau pitching in to get things done.  

She’s looking forward to having her tohu paetahi (bachelor’s degree) and her own classroom of tamariki: “That tohu will be a win for our whole community because it’s our whānau and tamariki and babies who will reap the benefits.” 

At the two-classroom Waihola School south of Dunedin, student teacher Melissa Hawke switched to the Te Rito Maiaho Bachelor of Teaching degree from campus-based learning. “Online learning works well for me and I gain so much experience with the children at school every week. I also have a lot of contact with other online students and we have become good friends.” 

Waihola School principal Sara Whitaker was part of the group that has helped design the programmes. She likes the field-based emphasis of the programmes, and the choice for people to study in their own communities. 

She also values having a student teacher learning at the school, which is too far from Dunedin to get teaching students from the university: “In a little school you value every person who comes in with a commitment to the school, and we feel like she is already part of our staff.” 

Enrolments are now open for the first intake of the new Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Primary) starting in Semester One 2023, as well as the three-year Bachelor of Teaching (Primary). 

*Pending NZQA and Teaching Council approval October 2022