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Teacher quality 'single most important influence' on success, study finds

Teachers have come out on top in a new survey that looks at what is most important in determining the education outcomes of New Zealand children.

When it comes to ensuring a high standard of education in schools, the quality of teaching staff proved significantly more important than a school’s resources, class size or management.

The Warehouse Stationery Most Inspiring Teacher study investigated New Zealanders’ perceptions of the teaching profession and their impact on the education of children.

The survey found a majority, seven out of ten New Zealanders, believe teachers are the most important factor in ensuring a high standard of education.

Sixty eight percent of respondents said that when it came to all aspects that contributed to the quality of education in our schools, the ability of a teacher was the most important.

This was followed by class size which ranked second at 14% and then by the school facilities or the funding a school receives (12%).

Interestingly, just six percent felt the management of the board of trustees was the most important aspect in education outcomes.

According to The Warehouse Stationery, the emphasis on quality of teaching in the new research reflects the results of a study by educationalist Professor John Hattie. Hattie’s report found excellence in teaching is the single most important influence on achievement and demonstrated the need to identify and encourage excellence in teachers.

The recent survey respondents were also quick to note the number of teachers who went beyond what was required of them in the classroom. Sixty percent said either they or their children had a teacher who volunteered their time outside of normal school hours to support students in extracurricular activities such as sports coaching.

Along with additional duties, teachers played a significant role in guiding their students for life beyond the school gate, the survey found. More than half (51%) of those surveyed believe a teacher had inspired them in their career or education choices.

Despite their dedication to the role, New Zealanders felt teachers were not given enough recognition for their hard work with 80% of those surveyed saying they felt teachers were “unappreciated” in today’s society. A further nine in ten (86%) also said that teachers had a much harder job today than their predecessors.

The New Zealand's Most Inspiring Teachers campaign is an annual programme created by Warehouse Stationery to acknowledge the hard work of teachers.

School children, parents, families and friends are invited to nominate and vote throughout the campaign.

A member of this year’s judging panel - Lynda Reid, a former member of the Ministerial Advisory Group on the reform of the Teachers’ Council, says she is not surprised to hear the results of the research and says it's important to recognise and place value on the work teachers do.

“It signals to the rest of society - and especially to those who may be considering entering the profession - that teachers make a profound difference and with that work comes recognition and a celebration of excellence,” says Reid.

“I think it is critically important to have multiple systems which recognise outstanding teachers; when a teacher wins an award such as these ones it not only highlights their achievements and the impact they have, but it also encourages colleagues to reflect on their own practice, to seek to improve and to learn from the expert practitioner in their midst,” she explains.

Pejman Okhovat, CEO of Warehouse Stationery, says the research shows Kiwis understand the value of teachers in the community and the significant role they play in the education system.

“Kiwis recognise the challenging role of teaching in our society,” he says.

“We have few opportunities to publicly acknowledge the contribution teachers make to our lives, whether it’s their creative approach to learning in the classroom, the out-of-hours work they do to organise sporting or cultural events, or the support they give to families and parents of their pupils,” says Okhovat.

“In giving people the chance to nominate the inspiring teachers they know, we get to celebrate the hard work they do that often goes unnoticed, and reward these special people who have such an important job.”

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