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Imports won't solve problem

Rotterdam, New York and Berlin join London as the cities worst-affected by a growing global problem, reports Clare Dean

IN America, the message is "Be a teacher, be a hero". In the Netherlands, it is "Teaching, every day different" while in Britain, slogans on beer mats and sandwich wrappers declare "Those who can, teach".

New York now recruits in Austria, Chicago looks to Egypt, and in Holland, Germans are filling vacancies. England recruits from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada.

Britain's largest teacher supply agency, TimePlan, both imports Kiwis keen to work in English schools and is the official recruitment arm here for the New Zealand government.

Neither the Department for Education and Employment, the Teacher Training Agency nor the General Teaching Council has official figures for the number of overseas teachers working in British schools.

But supply agencies, who are now looking to India for techers, estimate there could be as many as 15,000.

Dutch journalist Robert Sikkes, who has spent four months studying teacher shortages worldwide, (see story right), argues that flying in foreign staff does not solve the fundamental problem.

What is required, he claims, is a new type of teacher training, offering tailor-made courses for people wanting to switch career.

He said this is particularly important for people who bring along life-experience instead of traditional diplomas and added: "It is also easier to diversify the teaching force."

John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said that the Government must now offer a training wage for teachers equivalent to pound;15,000 annually.

Other professions pay substantially more than the pound;6,000 trainee teachers receive. Police officers are paid pound;17,333 during training, moving to pound;19,170 on completion of courses which range from 26 to 31 weeks.

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