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Academy flings cash at young staff

West London head hopes prospect of pound;10,000 pay rise in three years will attract the best science and maths recruits, reports Karen Thornton

A city academy is offering bright new young science, maths and English teachers rapid promotion and a pound;10,000 pay rise in three years to pound;35,000.

Alastair Falk, principal designate of West London academy, in Northolt, north-west London, which opens in September, says the move is in response to continuing recruitment problems in the capital, particularly in maths and science.

But he is also trying to stop newly qualified teachers making further salary demands by setting down in advance what the school can offer - and what it expects in return.

He is offering some unusual benefits. For example, new recruits can forgo a big salary increase in return for funding for a masters degree.

Mr Falk, the country's highest paid state school head, who earns around pound;120,000, said: "The idea came from my previous school, King Solomon high in Redbridge, where I had a very good experience working with bright NQTs and providing them with the possibility of moving on very quickly, with additional responsibilities."

He said schools had to take advantage of the energy of bright young teachers, especially as many would quit teaching. "One of the problems with teaching is you have to work slowly up the ladder and by the time you've done that, you're tired. Given the increasingly short time people stay in teaching, being able to invest in them while they are young and energetic seems to make sense. If you can get three good years out of somebody these days, that's realistic."

He admitted there was a "difficulty" for non-shortage subject teachers, who may resent the extra rewards for their colleagues.

But he added: "The market forces you down a particular route. I would like to arrive at a situation where, for example, masters courses and fast-tracking are in principle on offer to everybody."

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "I'm not against anyone getting a decent wage for the job, and desperate times mean desperate measures.

"The problem is the knock-on effect among staff already at the school who haven't got that kind of rise. But if the school thinks it can manage that, so be it."

The new academy, which will replace Compton high school in Northolt, is developing its own training programme for all staff.

Mr Falk also wants the academy to be family-friendly. Part-time and flexible working, including job shares, can help retain good staff. And he is even considering whether teachers could be allowed to take holiday outside the traditional break times for pupils.

Mr Falk's fast-track scheme is the school's own, and not linked to the Government's "fast-track" project, which aims to accelerate teachers'

promotion to management positions and offers additional pay and training as incentives.

Mr Falk said he wanted his NQTs to develop speedily but in classroom teaching, not management.

Claims that up to half of new entrants to teaching drop out within five years could be exaggerated, the House of Commons education select committee was told this week. While only 53 per cent of secondary maths teachers who qualified in 1995 were still working in English schools in 2001, 85 per cent had taught for at least some of that period, according to John Howson, a recruitment expert.

Opinion, 29

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