Give us a roof with a view and we will stay

After a summer in London, I am back at school in Kingston, Ontario - a place where dinner for two costs a tenner and you can buy a 50-acre hobby farm for the price of a Bolton semi. But while I was away my perspective became skewed. I remember, for example, getting all excited over a flat I found on the internet. It was in the arse-end of Limehouse and was hardly special, but it had a whole bedroom instead of stingy futon space and was a steal at pound;155,000. My partner was unimpressed, but I was thrilled because there was a chance - if I spent my entire teacher's wage on a mortgage for the next 90 years - that I could afford to live in a part of Zone 2 that I do not particularly like.

Such is the lure of the capital. Today at least, I would happily give up our spacious Canadian home, laid-back lifestyle, amazingly low cost of living, breathtaking lake-on-the-doorstep scenery and my excellent school. I would forfeit everything for stinky, crowded, pricey London.

I know Iwould find a job. I keep up-to-date with the teacher shortages and desperate overseas recruitment fairs. I know that unqualified graduates and cunningly disguised potted plants are teaching technology to young Londoners. I know about the people who escape the capital after a few years in the job, leaving their bedsits in Kilburn for houses - with sheds and driveways - up north.

So why am I not making a move? Basically, my partner refuses to retrain as a barrister-cum-premier-league-player and the incentives I have spotted in The TES job pages do not cut it: the best Ihave seen offered is the use of a laptop. But what about a line that said "CPS plus apartment in Camden"? That would get the applications in.

I know there is talk of social housing being built for teachers, but I am just not interested. It would be like living in a school - full of people talking too emphatically and humping crates of ring binders down the hallways. The building itself would be made on the cheap, complete with classroom-style breeze-block walls. Besides, if I wanted to live with my workmates I would join the army.

Consequently, I am waiting for a savvy local education authority to buy me a decent flat - which is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Iam rather fond of Bloomsbury, and I will happily downsize to one bedroom plus space for exercise books.

Although my modest apartment will probably cost someone a whopping pound;250,000, I have another 30 years of teaching ahead of me. Loads of money, yes, but a mere 10 grand a year over a career. If I stay in the classroom for the full 30 years, the flat is mine to keep. If I defect to Manchester after five years, say, I get a portion of the flat's value, and so on.

If that does not work I am willing to compromise. Perhaps my LEA can set up an interest-free mortgage or help me out with a down payment.

When word gets out, the competition for jobs will be tough. Headteachers, no longer fighting for warm bodies on the August bank holiday weekend, will become ruthless interviewers. And London, which considers itself to be the centre of the English-speaking - if not the entire - universe, will get the personnel to build a stable, world-class education system.

What teacher - ensconced in a petit pad with 11-foot ceilings - will choose to leave? We will stay forever, meandering down to Soho for after-school coffees and rowing on the Serpentine every Sunday afternoon. Staff retention problems will be over.

And think how effective we will be in the classroom if we do not go home to the grotty outskirts each night. Think how engaged we will be if, at strategy meetings, we are not distracted by thoughts of the holiday we will be able to afford when we reluctantly transfer to Liverpool or Leeds, or back to Canada.

What we need is a long-term incentive - preferably with a park view. And the capital's recruiters are in a strong position. Our London-lust means we will move for much less than we have now. But we will not move for nothing.

Nicholas Woolley teaches English and law in Kingston, Ontario

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