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Crisis, what crisis?;Talkback

Ken Shelton thought he could help ease the teacher shortage. He's still hoping.

You can't turn on the radio these days without hearing a minister bleating on about some staffing crisis or other: nurses, doctors, or, worse, teachers - science, languages, secondary, primary, especially male. You would imagine this caring, sharing, stakeholding Government - committed above all to the 3Es - would ensure these shortages are addressed - and pronto.

Good theory, what about the practice? I (late 30s, O-levels, three A-levels, couple of degrees, social work qualification, even) have reached a stage where I want to do "something more meaningful with my life". The Graduate Teacher Programme - on-the-job training, personally tailored - seems perfect.

The Teacher Training Agency sends me the bumph, and I phone Bench Marque, the company that deals with "any other queries", except, of course, on a Wednesday. There's an answering machine. So I phone the Department for Education and Employment and get through to a "policy person". His advice is to contact individual schools.

Hoping to shortcut this long-winded approach, I ring my local boroughs in south-east London. Greenwich is "not doing anything on GTP", it has "other priorities"; Bexley has farmed out recruitment to an agency that needs an SAE for each week's vacancies; Lewisham's approach to telephone enquiries is just too awful to describe; Southwark's key person on GTP has graduated from not answering voicemail to leaving a white noise message.

So back to the long-winded approach: I telephone schools and ask if they have any vacancies through the Graduate Teacher Programme. In two days, I phone 98 primaries.

After repeated fruitless attempts, I give up on 10. Admittedly, one is answered by a child, who disappears to find a grown-up, never to return.

Of those I speak to, several laugh (good-naturedly, of course) when I say I'm looking for a job.

Two schools ask me to send my CV - but what will they do with it, as neither has vacancies? Three more have recently filled vacancies. One head says she's already had a teacher under the Registered Teacher Programme and that it took up so much time, she's loath to do it again.

I do not always know who answers the phone, and I admit I took responses at face value. There was only one male voice out of 88 answers.

So is the GTP a cosmetic exercise? And is the cavalier attitude of education authorities towards my enquiries irrelevant?

Should I continue in my search - or give up? Answers from interested employers to 106315.2546@compuserve.com Ken Shelton used to be a management consultant. He's still trying to become a teacher

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