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Not fit to walk my dog, says head

Outburst follows fruitless worldwide search for maths teachers, reports Warwick Mansell

THE headteacher of a Kent school that launched an unsuccessful worldwide search for maths teachers has told Education Secretary David Blunkett that he would not allow some of the applicants to "walk my dog, let alone teach a class".

John Atkins, principal of Kemnal Technology College, wrote to Mr Blunkett after his eight-month recruiting drive produced only half-a-dozen applications, none of which was thought suitable.

He explained that since last November the school had:

Put adverts on its own website and that of the Technology Colleges Trust.

Placed five adverts in The TES, the last of which offered an enhanced salary to those with the potential to go through the threshold or be fast-tracked.

Advertised in Australia and South Africa.

Contacted eight teacher training institutions asking for graduates.

Investigated offering on-the-job training to graduates without a teaching qualification.

The college, an expanding foundation school in Sidcup, has now decided to use the graduate recruitment scheme to re-train two of its own administrative staff as maths teachers.

Bill Richardson, chairman of the Maths Association, said: "I don't think it's helpful to imply on the basis of an experience of half-a-dozen applications, that there are no good teachers out there. But I can understand his frustration. There is an acute shortage of maths teachers, and the Government's attention needs to be drawn to that fact."

Another secondary, Riverside Community College in Leicester, filled three maths vacancies with two teachers from Namibia and one from Canada after advertising on The TES website.

Maths teacher vacancies have risen by 66 per cent in the past 12 months, with 5,000 adverts carried in The TES since September.

Recruitment analyst John Howson said that the numbers of newly-qualified maths specialists looking for jobs this year could be as low as 1,000 - not nearly enough to cover for the large numbers retiring or leaving the profession.

Even the introduction of pound;10,000 training salaries for students on maths postgraduate certificate in education courses, may only ease the problem.

Last week, new government figures revealed that, despite the announcement of the salaries this spring, applications for maths PGCEs, though improving, remained below the level of this time last year.

The Home Office has blocked a Liberal Democrat suggestion to make the working-holiday visa scheme for overseas teachers more flexible.

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