Primary School Teacher
Kaiako Kura Tuatahi
Alternative titles for this job
Primary school teachers teach children between the ages of five and 13 at primary or intermediate schools.
Primary school teachers usually earn
$51K-$90K per year
Source: MoE, 2019-2022
Pay for primary school teachers varies depending on qualifications and experience.
- Primary school teachers with a relevant diploma or degree can earn between $51,000 and $90,00 a year.
Primary school teachers may also qualify for higher pay and allowances if they have extra responsibilities.
Source: Ministry of Education, 'Primary Teachers' Collective Agreement 2019-2022'.
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, then $3,500 after the fourth year, and a further $3,500 after the fifth year.
Extra pay in private or independent schools
Primary school teachers who teach in private or independent schools may earn higher 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."
Primary school teacher video
Wanwan talks about what it’s like to be a primary school teacher – 5.53 mins.
The job that teachers do is very important. We have to make sure the children are happy because when they’re happy they learn.
Welcome to waitangi. This is a Year Five and Six classroom. We have a hundred and twenty-two children, and four teachers.
This environment is called an innovative learning environment. We co-teach, we co-plan. It is a really great environment because teachers and students are interacting on a larger scale. In a space like this it is really easy to learn from each other’s strengths. When the children see that, they can see that working as a team is one of the really important skills to have in life.
My day normally starts at about eight o’clock, replying to some emails, or marking some books, getting ready for my day. One of my favourite times of the day is greeting the children as they come in, in the morning. Sometimes I greet them in their languages and that makes them feel very welcome. The bell goes at nine o’clock.
Wanwan: Halal would you like to start for us? Karakia please.
Wanwan and children: Tutawa mai i runga. Tutawa mai i raro.
Wanwan: After the bell we have a class meeting to make sure that everyone knows what the day looks like. We’ll start our day with a fitness session to make sure the oxygen is in their brain. The nature of our job requires high energy because the children have high energy levels. We’ll just have to balance that energy and pace ourselves for the day.
On a typical day we will do Reading, Writing, and Maths in the morning. Today we are working on our learning record. Students write about their learning experience at school to share with family.
Right now it’s about eleven o’clock and I am on morning tea duty.
After morning tea we come back to do some silent reading. It is a great time to settle down before the next learning. Then we move into enquiry learning. It’s a student driven learning. Today we are finding the commonality between two courageous people.
Then lunch time. Lunch times about an hour. Sometimes I’m on duty. When I’m on duty I put the music on. Music makes people dance and dancing makes people happy.
So after lunch every day is different. Sometime we do P.E, sometimes there is music, drama, te reo and sometime it’s free time. Today we have first language hui. All the students that do speak another language at home, we gather up.
We do some activities together, we play games. We are providing a context for students to be themselves, to share their dual identity or multiple identities.
I was an international student myself. I came to New Zealand when I was seventeen, and I want the children to know that it is really cool to have a super power. Here that means I can speak different languages, and by me role modelling that, the children can be really proud of who they are, what they have, and where they’ve come from.
Teachers don’t finish work at three o’clock. There’s always meetings, emails to reply to, paperwork to complete. Usually we finish at about five o’clock. Unless you’re really organised, maybe you can go home at four.
Being a teacher is full of challenges. You have to be creative. You have to be flexible. You have to have an open mind and you need to be able to enjoy a laugh. You don’t have to be good at the things you think you should be. Children love to know that someone else is learning with them When you are learning together they feel like you are on their team, and the learning outcome is better.
I think at the beginning you feel like you can change the world. You want to make a difference in people's lives, but further on what is most rewarding is that relationship that you have built over time. Not just with the kids, but with the whole whanau and then it becomes the relationship with the whole community and then you feel like you’re part of the community and little things are making a big difference.
That’s what I really love about teaching in Newtown school.
Do you want to be a teacher?
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)
- Master of Teaching (Primary)
- Master 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 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 reasonably fit and healthy, as they may stand for long periods, do playground duty and physical education, coach sport, and run 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 Census, 33,519 primary school teachers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Demand highest in Auckland
Demand for primary school teachers is highest in urban North Island areas.
At the start of 2019, there were 140 vacancies for primary school teachers in Auckland, 43 in Wellington and 40 in Waikato.
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 also speak te reo Māori 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 February 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).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- 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 managerial roles, such as deputy principal or principal, or they may move into work outside the school system, such as:
- teaching trainee teachers at universities
- doing research, policy or advisory work in the education sector
- working in training and education roles in a museum or art gallery.
With further training, primary school teachers may progress to become special education teachers.
Last updated 28 March 2023