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DFEE fails to find staff in Blunkett's backyard

THE Government unit set up to help schools fill vacancies could not prevent a school in David Blunkett's Sheffield constituency from sending pupils home for lack of staff.

Joe Dunn, of Southey Green junior school, sparked a frantic Department for Education and Employment search for supply teachers after warning parents three weeks ago that he could not find anyone to cover for two sick staff.

The case was particularly embarrassing for ministers as it featured on the front page of the local Sheffield Star, and was taken up in several national newspapers.

But, on the first day that pupils were due to be turned away, the DFEE was only able to find one supply teacher, who herself had been diverted from another school. As a result, one class had to stay at home.

On the second day, the Friday before half-term, tw teachers were found, although again one had to be moved from another school. No pupils were sent home, but Mr Dunn had to teach for the whole day.

The school re-opened this week back at full strength. But Mr Dunn is seething after a DFEE spokesman reportedly accused him of using the staffing crisis as a stick with which to beat the Government.

Mr Dunn said: "The Secretary of State should be saying, 'We recognise there's a problem and we are doing all we can to address it.' Instead the Government tries to say there's no shortage, there's no problem. It's just not true - there is a very serious problem."

A survey of Sheffield schools by the National Union of Teachers found that of the 31 schools that responded, 28 said they had a problem finding supply teachers. Nineteen of these were primary schools.

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