Playing fields may be sacrificed to make way for cheap bedsits

Warwick Mansell

SCHOOLS are considering sacrificing playing fields to build affordable homes for teachers.

The measure is a sign both of the increasingly stiff competition for staff, and of high housing costs in the South-east.

Oakwood, a 1,500-pupil school in Horley, Surrey, wants to build a block of six bedsits in its 24-acre grounds.

The school hopes to take out a pound;250,000 mortgage to build the flats, then charge young teachers pound;200-pound;250 a month to rent a room - around half the cost of typical rents in the area. The block, which would need planning permission, could be built by next September.

Head Andy Thompson, said that the school, which has a good inspection report and expects to expand to 1,650 pupils in the next three years, had managed to fill all of its 24 vacancies this year. But, with a turnover of around 20 of its 90 staff a year, he was concerned that it needed to keep ahead of the game.

House prices are a big deterrent to working in Surrey schools, which this summer had some 600 vacancies.

Mr Thompson said: "Ten years ago, people offered a job at interview would not think of not taking the position. Now people say: 'I've got another 10 interviews ...' You have to have something extra to offer."

The earmarked plot of land is on a playing field that is not used, well away from the school.

Earlier this year, Spokey Wheeler, head of Wavell school, Farnborough, Hampshire, talked of building houses in the grounds.

Professor Alan Smithers, of Liverpool University's centre for education and employment research, said: "It's expensive for schools to provide accommodation in this way, and they will not be able to provide much.

"What we need is salaries that allow teachers to live even in the most expensive areas."

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Warwick Mansell

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