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Primary School TeacherAlternative titles

Kaiako Kura Tuatahi

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Intermediate School Teacher

Primary school teachers teach children between the ages of five and 13 at primary or intermediate schools.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733


Pay for primary school teachers varies depending on qualifications and experience.

  • With a three-year Bachelor of Education (Teaching) or equivalent, or an Advanced Diploma of Teaching, you start on about $46,000 a year. You can reach a maximum of about $68,000 after seven years.
  • With a bachelor's degree and teaching qualification (total of four years' tertiary study), you start on about $47,000 a year, and can reach a maximum of about $72,000 after seven years.

Primary school principals earn between $78,000 and $148,000 a year.

Additional payments for some primary school teachers

Primary school teachers who teach in a school that is identified as one that is hard to staff may earn an extra $3,500 in their third, fourth and fifth years of teaching under the Government's Voluntary Bonding Scheme.

Those teachers that take on management roles, such as syndicate leader (leading teachers of a particular year group), or curriculum specialist, and those that teach in private or independent schools, may be paid an extra $2,000 to $3,000 a year.

Source: Ministry of Education, 'Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement', 2013-2015.

What you will do

Primary school teachers may do some or all of the following:

  • plan and prepare lessons and activities for the year, based on children's needs and the curriculum
  • teach English, maths, science, technology, arts and social studies
  • keep up to date with curriculum changes and assessment methods
  • assess and record learning and development of each child
  • help to develop children's social skills and behaviours
  • meet with parents, whānau and caregivers at planning or teacher/parent evenings
  • lead a curriculum area, such as English or maths, within the school
  • get involved in extracurricular activities such as sports coaching and school fairs
  • do lunchtime playground duty or road patrol duty.

Skills and knowledge

Primary school teachers need to have knowledge of:

  • different teaching methods and learning styles
  • the New Zealand school curriculum
  • how to plan units and lessons, and evaluate students' progress
  • child development, including learning difficulties and how to identify them
  • behaviour management techniques, such as establishing boundaries and rewarding positive behaviour
  • school rules, policies and procedures, including safety and emergency procedures.

Working conditions

Primary school teachers:

  • usually work with children from about 8am until 3.30pm. They also work outside these hours doing administrative work, attending meetings and doing extracurricular activities such as coaching sports teams
  • work in classrooms, which may be noisy, and occasionally outside in the playground or sports field
  • may accompany students on field trips, sports events and school camps.

What's the job really like?

Nelson Teariki - Primary School Teacher

Nelson Teariki
The buzz of seeing students succeed

Nelson Teariki chose primary school teaching because the teachers he'd had at school made learning so much fun. "I thought it would be pretty cool to be able to do that for others."

Seeing the students achieve successes is what teaching's all about, says Nelson. "At the beginning of this year one of the boys in my class had ideas in his head but couldn't put them down on paper. But now he can spell better, he can write his ideas down and he's really happy about that – and I am too!"

And a downside of the job? "There's a huge amount of paperwork and I'm definitely not a paper person! Sometimes I have struggled with that, especially when I began teaching."

Nelson's tips on becoming a teacher

If you're considering a career in teaching, Nelson has two pieces of advice. "First, have someone around who believes in you. It was my mum who always pushed me, and encouraged me to believe in my ability to become a teacher, even when I sometimes doubted it. And second, if you're serious about teaching go and do some work experience in a school – you'll soon find out if that's what you want to do."


Primary school teachers usually earn about
per year
Primary school teachers with four to seven years’ experience usually earn
per year
Source: Ministry of Education, 'Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement', 2013-2015.
Mahina Law sitting on the floor with children, handing out paper

Mahina Law teaching the Māori alphabet to her students

Updated 27 Jan 2014