Bay of Plenty teachers fight proposal to hike practising certificate fees

Tauranga teachers fear a “mindboggling” fee doubling could price them out of the profession if it goes ahead.

This comes as a petition against the Teaching Council’s suggested changes to practising certificate fees garnered almost 13,000 signatures as of Friday.

But the council says the fees had not risen in almost 12 years and did not reflect how much it costs to carry out “statutory functions”.

The proposal would see the practising certificate renewal fee more than double at $472.21 for three years. The current cost was $220.80.

Graduate teachers applying for registration and their provisional practising certificate would also have to pay $472.21 when starting out.

A teacher on their provisional certificate would then need to pay $572.21 when applying for their full registration – up from the current $302.57.

Consultation was set to end on April 1.

Tauranga teaching graduate Jake Angus, who started the petition, said the changes would “create barriers” for teachers and result in fewer entering the profession.

“This is literally going to be the nail in the coffin for some schools and we are not going to get teachers wanting to come into the profession because it is too expensive.

“We just lost a whole lot of teachers to the vaccine mandate, and now we are going to lose even more because they can’t afford to update their practising certificate.”

And the fees were “a ridiculous amount of money” for beginning teachers who were at “the bottom of the food chain on the pay scale”.

Angus, who was currently completing a master’s in education, said it was the wrong time to be suggesting changes due to the financial strain many were experiencing amid the pandemic.

“I was planning to head back into the classroom after I had finished my degree, but now I am contemplating whether I do or not. I don’t know if I will be able to afford it.”

Tauranga early childhood teacher Corinne Rogers-Hall said she will need to apply for her full registration in about a year and the proposed hike would cost her almost the equivalent to her weekly income.

Rogers-Hall said kaiako “did not need the extra pressure” of how to source the additional funds.

“For me, it is a hard choice. If the fees were to rise, I don’t know if I would want to pay that amount to be fully registered. If I can’t get the right support, how can I help our tamariki?”

She said the move would put some teachers off the profession altogether.

“There will be many teachers that won’t be able to afford the fees. Some can’t afford them now. There will be many teachers that won’t renew their status because the fees are too high.”

Western Bay of Plenty teacher Chelsea Old, who signed the petition, said she found it “mindboggling” the fees could more than double.

The New Zealand Education Institute Rotorua branch president said she and her colleagues were feeling “pretty salty” and she feared teachers – including those working in early childhood – would leave the profession.

“With inflation, with the cost of living, and with our wages remaining stagnant for so long – are we edging people out of the game?

“It is a huge ask – especially in those first few years of teaching when you are not making that much.”

Old said she struggled to pay the fee when she entered the profession three years ago when it cost $220.

“I remember that being a huge financial burden for me. I could see how it could prevent people from following through now.”

The union’s national president Liam Rutherford said more than doubling the fee for teachers was “unacceptable”.

In a written statement, he said this would place a “significant burden” on teachers – particularly those who worked part-time and in the early childhood education sector.

“It is unfair to increase the fees by more than 100 per cent after 12 years of inaction: teachers working now should not be penalised for the failure of successive governments to provide a sustainable financial base for the Teaching Council.”

He said the fee increases should be linked to the consumer price index from now.

“Any shortfall experienced by the Teaching Council in the meantime should not become a debt inherited by current and future teachers.”

University of Waikato pro vice-chancellor of education Don Klinger said while cost increase was always a “concern for educators”, there was no evidence it had been a barrier to entering the profession.

The Teaching Council governing chairwoman Nicola Ngarewa said she understood the proposed increase was “significant” and the timing of consultation was “not ideal”.

But a council spokesperson said the fees had not risen in nearly 12 years.

Cost had increased for the council to perform its “statutory functions”, but the fees paid by the teaching profession had not.

Fees paid by teachers allowed the council to do the “necessary work” to ensure the profession remained “strong, effective, and trusted” for tamariki, and rangatahi, the spokesperson said.

It held a series of pre-consultation hui with stakeholders, unions and peak bodies in September and October to gather feedback and share information on the consultation process.

The spokesperson said government subsidised the teachers’ fees over the past 12 years, but it had indicated that except for the council’s leadership function, it would not provide further operating funding.

“The Teaching Council must recover the actual and reasonable costs of performing all its statutory functions through the charging of fees and levies.”

Audit, consulting, tax, and advisory service Deloitte was employed to ensure costs “accurately represent the reality of delivering services to teachers”, with a review confirming costs were “actual and reasonable”.

The council was also exploring options to make payments more affordable for teachers, including paying by instalments.

While the council did not expect the consultation would impact teacher staffing, it had “well-established processes in place for combating staff shortages”.

This included prioritising the registration and certification of graduate teachers to get them teaching in a short timeframe.

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