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Diplomas still not currency in Europe

British teachers who want to work on the continent are far more likely to run up against bureaucracy than those applying for jobs in this country, according to a European Commission report.

Under single-market rules, higher education diplomas based on three years' professional education and training should entitle their holder to work anywhere in the European Union.

More than 11,000 people succeeded in having their higher education qualifications recognised in another country between 1991 and 1994. Of these, nearly 6,000 successfully applied to work in the UK, of whom 3,800 were teachers.

The phenomenon was partly explained by strong demand for teachers in Britain and a surplus of qualified teachers, particularly in Germany and Holland. In addition, countries whose languages are widely spoken attract more cross-border applicants, says the report.

But, unlike Britain, France is violating the rules by insisting that qualified teachers from other countries must participate in a national competition and go on a French training course.

Complaints have also poured in against Germany provoked by "the apparent refusal to recognise teaching qualifications from non-university higher education establishments".

Access to the teaching profession falls within the jurisdiction of the LAnder or districts. It is more than five years since the European Union rules came into force. Yet six LAnder have yet to bring their laws into line with the single market.

Further problems, now being examined by the commission, arise from the requirement for all teachers in Germany to be capable of teaching two subjects.

Last year, Belgium and Greece were condemned by the European Court of Justice for failing to implement the directive.

Greece has subsequently applied it to some health and legal professions, but its schools are still barred to teachers holding British diplomas. In Belgium, where draconian cost-reduction measures are meeting tough resistance from the teachers' unions, the situation is even more hopeless. Far from welcoming foreign teachers, staff cuts and school closures are dominating the timetable.

The situation is worst in French-speaking Wallonia, where 3,000 teaching posts will have vanished before term begins next September and thousands more before the end of the decade.

The days of village schools in sparsely populated areas are also numbered. Redundancy looms for any member of staff who dares to be away "sick" too often.

Classes have been disrupted since Jean-Luc Dehaene's government announced austerity measures last summer across the public sector in an attempt to help Belgium to meet the economic criteria needed to qualify for the single European currency.

Last week, a mass demonstration of teachers brought Brussels to a halt. Schools will stay closed next Monday when half-term ends after the latest round of negotiations ended in deadlock.

Pupils now face a carefully organised timetable of curriculum chaos right up until the end of the summer term with 20 per cent of teachers taking it in turns to be on strike at any one time.

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