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No takers for sporting chance

When you have a new pound;4.2m sports complex and still can't attract a PE teacher, then you know the staffing crisis is serious. Jon Slater reports from Kent

WITH a brand-new pound;4.2 million sports complex, complete with sauna and jacuzzi, Canterbury high school thought it would have no problem finding a PE teacher.

The complex, which was built using the private finance initiative, includes a six-lane running track, world-class gymnastics facilities and a 50-station aerobics suite. Yet numerous adverts for a newly qualified teacher have failed to fill the vacancy, a fact that could now affect the school's planned bid for sports college status.

It is a vivid indication of the seriousness of the recruitment crisis in the south-east in particular. There are now believed to be more than 600 teaching vacancies in Kent alone.

Seven candidates have been interviewed for the post, which is for a boys' PE teacher, but on every occasion they had accepted other offers before the interview at Canterbury high even took place.

Clare Noel, personnel officer at the school, has been trying to fill 24 teaching posts across a range of subjects for the new academic year.

She has found teachers from as far away as Hungary and South Africa but, despite the lure of pound;500 relocation expenses and an additional pound;100 per month salary to cover the high cost of living in Kent, she still has six posts to fill.

Problems finding teachers for shortage subjects such as maths were expected. But the lack of a PE teacher is a surprise, given the school's excellent facilities.

The lack of specialist PE staff has cast a shadow over the school's hopes of becoming a centre of excellence for sport.

Ms Noel said: "Our planned expansion into post-16 (sport) provision will be affected. We were also hoping to run junior sports leaders courses and to increase the number of pupils doing GCSE PE. Reduced staffing would cut into all that.

"What we're doing now is trying to use personal contacts. We've asked newly qualified teachers who are starting with us in September to talk to people on their courses and to spread news of the post by word of mouth."

Professor John Howson, an expert on recruitment said that PE was not normally a subject associated with shortages. He suggested that recruitment problems may be being caused by PE teachers who are covering for vacancies in other subjects.

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