Primary School Teacher
Kaiako Kura Tuatahi
Primary school teachers teach children between the ages of five and 13 at primary or intermediate schools.
New primary school teachers usually earn
$48K-$49K per year
Primary school teachers with more than two years' experience usually earn
$51K-$76K per year
Source: NZEI, 'Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement', 2018.
Pay for primary school teachers varies depending on qualifications and experience.
- Graduate primary school teachers usually earn between $48,000 and $49,000 a year.
- Primary school teachers with two to six years' experience usually earn $51,000 to $72,000.
- Primary school teachers with more than six years' experience usually earn $68,000 to $76,000.
Voluntary bonding scheme in hard-to-staff schools
Primary school teachers who work in schools identified as hard to staff may be eligible for an extra $10,500 after three consecutive years of teaching, and $3,500 after teaching for four and five years.
Extra pay in private or independent schools
Primary school teachers who teach in private or independent schools may earn an extra $2,000 to $3,000 a year.
Extra pay for management responsibilities
Primary school teachers may receive extra pay for management responsibilities or receive other allowances under their collective agreement.
Source: NZEI, 'Primary Teachers' Collective Agreement – 9 June 2016 to 8 June 2018', 2019.
- NZEI website - Primary Teachers' Collective Agreement – 9 June 2016 to 8 June 2018 (PDF - 1MB)
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Education.govt.nz website - information about primary teachers' salaries
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Primary school teachers may do some or all of the following:
- plan, prepare and present lessons
- teach a wide range of subjects such as arts, English, maths and science
- keep up to date with curriculum changes and assessment methods
- assess and record learning and development of each child
- observe and manage student behaviour
- 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 camps, 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.
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?
Primary School Teacher
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."
To become a primary school teacher you need to have one of the following:
- Bachelor of Education (Teaching)
- Bachelor of Teaching (Primary or Māori Medium)
- Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Primary).
Alternatively, you can complete a four-year conjoint degree, such as a BA/BTeach or BSc/BTeach, which combines study in teaching subjects with teacher training. This conjoint degree means you can teach both primary and secondary students.
Education requirements for graduates
If you already have a Bachelor's degree that is not in education or teaching, you also need to complete one of the following:
- Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Primary)
- Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning (Primary)
- Masters of Teaching (Primary)
- Masters of Teaching and Learning (Primary)
- Postgraduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning in Māori Medium.
You also need to be registered with the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and have a current practising certificate.
Scholarships available for Māori and Pasifika
Primary school teacher scholarships for course fees and sometimes allowances are available for:
- Māori medium trainee teachers
- Māori or Pasifika high achievers – students who have completed one year of undergraduate study with a B+ grade average and show strong leadership skills.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Special Education Teacher
To become a special education teacher you need to have two years or more of primary school teaching experience, full teacher registration, and you must complete a postgraduate qualification in the area of special education you wish to teach in.
Primary school teachers need to be:
- skilled at communicating clearly with children and adults from a range of backgrounds and cultures
- organised, and good at solving problems quickly
- enthusiastic, open-minded and able to motivate children
- creative and adaptable
- able to work well under pressure
- firm and fair, with a sense of humour
- able to work well in a team.
You absolutely have to be able to problem-solve – to think on your feet and react quickly. Things happen all the time in teaching, and you won't know how to respond to it until it happens.
Primary School Teacher
Useful experience for primary school teachers includes:
- child counselling
- work with people with disabilities
- school holiday programme work
- childcare work or work as a teacher aide
- working with children through groups such as Brownies and Scouts
- coaching sports teams.
Primary school teachers need to be fit enough to cope with standing for a long time, doing playground duty and PE, coaching sport and running school camps. Teachers usually need to know how to swim.
Primary school teachers need to be registered with the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and have a current practising certificate.
- Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand website - information on teacher registration and certification
Find out more about training
- Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand
- (04) 471 0852 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.teachingcouncil.nz
- 0800 165 225 - email@example.com - www.teachnz.govt.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of primary school teachers
Primary school teacher appears on Immigration New Zealand's regional skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled teachers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Demand for primary school teachers is expected to remain high. This is because:
- high birth rates in the early 2010s mean more children at primary schools until 2025
- a large number of teachers are expected to retire by 2023.
According to the Education Counts website, there are about 34,000 primary school teachers and 6000 relief teachers working in New Zealand in 2017.
Demand highest in Auckland
Demand for primary school teachers is urban North Island areas.
There were 140 vacancies for primary school teachers in Auckland, 43 in Wellington and 40 in Waikato at the start of 2019.
Primary school teachers are leaving Auckland due to the high cost of housing, and commuting times making it difficult to balance work and life.
Teachers who speak Māori in high demand
Qualified primary school teachers who are also Māori language speakers are in high demand to teach in kura kaupapa Māori (Māori language immersion schools) and in general primary schools.
The Government offers scholarships and additional salary payments to encourage people to train in this area.
Most teachers employed by the Government
State schools are the biggest employers of primary school teachers, but teachers may also work for private and state-integrated schools, such as Catholic schools.
- Collins, S, 'NZEI Survey Points to Possible Improvement in Teacher Shortage', 18 February 2019, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
- Education Counts, 'Teacher Headcount by Age', accessed 2019, (www.educationcounts.govt.nz).
- Gerritsen, J, 'Principals Worried By Teacher Shortage Forecast', 18 October 2018, (www.radionz.co.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Redmond, A, 'NZ Schools Need 376 Teachers For 2019 As Overseas Recruitment Drive Comes "Too Late"', 23 January 2019, (www.stuff.co.nz)
- TeachNZ website, accessed February 2019, (www.teachnz.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Primary school teachers may move into management roles, such as deputy principal or principal, or they may move into work outside the school system, such as:
- teaching trainee teachers in universities
- doing research, policy or advisory work in the education sector
- working in training and education roles in a museum or art gallery.
Last updated 2 September 2019