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WWe're fishing in a pond devoid of fish. If you had to choose two or three key issues on which schools might judge whether their LEA was succeeding or not I think this might be one of them. It's a case of finding out what you've got, what you need and what the shortfall is.

The new towns of Basildon and Harlow cause us the biggest problems, along with the parts of the county that border London - because of London weighting, which isn't payable in Essex.

It's worth bearing in mind that the situation is different from 15 years ago. The days of the local-authority establishment are long gone. To find out how many teachers we've got we have to ask the schools - we rely on that information. We've created a specific post to enable this information to be collected.

My colleague Tracey Gowlett has the job of liaising with the schools, collecting the iformation and keeping it up to date. The key thing is to maintain the links to the schools. We need to know the situation on the ground before we can begin to build a recruitment strategy. There's a three-pronged approach, all complementary: marketing, the universities trail and pool recruitment.

We need between 500 and 600 NQTs this year just to stand still. Pool recruitment is a very simple approach. NQTs make one application to work in Essex. Those are aggregated and schools can look at all the applications we've got.

It's a sellers' market - if NQTs are not happy with what's on offer they go elsewhere.

Recruitment is fairly specialised and schools need to spend their time on other things. We get good feedback - schools appear to be pleased about what we're doing. But we still have problems recruiting.

Interview: Phil Revell

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