The teacher shortage is increasing due to the 8.5 billion euros that the cabinet is making available to eliminate backlogs due to corona. Schools use that money, for example, to give extra lessons, which means that even more teachers are needed. Special education and schools in deprived areas are particularly affected by this. Some schools are even going to have a four-day school week to fill the gaps in the timetables, say the Sector Council for Specialized Education and the PO Council. NRC.
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The extra 8.5 billion euros from the National Education Program (NPO) gives teachers even more choice in the already tight labor market. They prefer to choose an ‘easy school’ or a school in the area. A logical but ironic consequence is that the extra money actually reinforces the inequality of opportunity. “With this money in hand, teachers are so drawn to,” says Wim Ludeke, board member of the Sector Council for Specialized Education, “that they go for the axe. The temptation to switch to regular education or to be seconded as a self-employed person is great.” Through a secondment agency, teachers can earn more and are more flexible. Schools that already had a hard time are now having a little more trouble, according to the PO Council, the association of primary school boards.
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“We see that schools in the suburbs suddenly have much more money, and therefore more vacancies, which would otherwise only arise in a few years when someone retires,” says chairman Freddy Weima. A member survey shows that 80 percent of primary school boards want to use the money for extra staff, but 42 percent do not know where to get those extra hands. The PO Council also receives signals that emergency measures such as the four-day school week and online education are being used more often.
The Van Detschool, a public school for special education in Amsterdam, initially wanted to organize a four-day school week for two groups, but that no longer seems necessary. The school still has five vacancies, says director Heleen Stoelinga. Two teachers are leaving, another is ill for a long time and at the same time 45 students will be added after the summer. “We have been short of teachers for at least two years. But this year it is worse.” With ‘cut-and-paste’ she tries to fill in the gaps by making the groups bigger and putting people in front of the class who ‘don’t really belong there’, such as internal counselors.
Housing shortage large cities
The housing shortage also plays a role. The four major cities and Almere are systematically losing teachers to other municipalities, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science reported in a report last year. In the period 2015-2019, more than a thousand teachers switched from the G5 to other municipalities than vice versa.
“We are all fishing in the same pond,” says Liesbeth Smallegange, director of De Omme Wissel, a school for special education in Arnhem. “It’s nice that teachers now have a choice, but that makes it difficult for us.” Smallegange was only able to teach a number of her groups for four days in recent months due to staff shortages, including because of corona. The fifth day the students were at home, with homework, but without supervision. “We were able to fill the gaps for a long time because part-timers started working more hours,” says Smallegange, but from April that was no longer possible. “Even the secondment agencies no longer had suitable staff available. Very sad.” Things are going better after the summer holidays: director Smallegange has just completed her formation. “Each group can go back to school for five days. I’m flying the flag!”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science says that schools with a high risk of arrears will receive a larger share of 8.5 billion.
Who still wants to be a teacher? page 10-11
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of July 13, 2021