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Radhika the vacancy slayer

Radhika Bynon. Recruitment strategy manager, Newham

Last summer, 500 teachers left the borough, one in five of its schools' staff. By September, it had found 570 replacements

One of our problems is that most teacher training takes place outside London - and yet London is the place with the biggest demand for NQTs. We have to recruit from outside - from the North and the Midlands. We can't just sit and hope. We invest a lot in training NQTs - they are the mainstay of our schools. Then they either stay or move on - normally because they want to find somewhere with cheaper housing.

If you are from Carmarthen, London is exciting. It's tough but you have a laugh, especially if you get on well with your colleagues. That binds you to the job. But then you think about buying property. A couple who are struggling to buy a two-bedroom flat in London hear about a four-bedroom house for the same price back home so of course they're going to be tempted to go back.

We have the starter-home initiative, and I help find flats for young teachers through housing associations - and the council has some 60 places reserved for teaching staff. But we can't service every need. We have to let the Government know how serious the situation is.

But this situation is not confined to education - it's right across the public services - in health and the police. The Met sold off a lot of their section's houses and are struggling to keep staff on now because of accommodation problems. Teachers in Newham will start on a decent wage: pound;22,000. But that will not be enough to keep them here.

Despite our losses last summer, we didn't send pupils home or close schools. At the start of January, every class was covered. We are coping, but we can never afford to relax.

I see NQTs come in to start their jobs with lots of excitement and enthusiasm, but within three years they are exhausted. It's not surprising some of them choose to teach somewhere they think will be easier. So we have to find people from other routes.

We have 25 people training on the graduate teacher programme, with another 12 starting in April. Heads are becoming aware of the practicability of this route into the profession, and the good ones are finding candidates from within their school community. We also have 70 support staff doing day-release over four years to qualify as teachers. This course is in its second year now and will give us a good steady supply of staff. It's a very exciting development.

People who come into the job this way are much more likely to stay in Newham because they are already established here. They have a lot more certainty about what they want to do and bring additional knowledge and experience to the job. They also reflect the ethnic mix of the community: we have Punjabi-speaking women with professional qualifications who have taken time out to look after their families. But four years is a long haul so we need to give them plenty of encouragement and support.

Some teachers are worried when we talk about training support staff to be teachers, but it's not every teaching assistant who has the qualities to do the job. Canny heads are spotting the bright people under their noses.

Good schools are not made up only of people who have gone the traditional NQT route. It's the mix of people that makes schools interesting. I have a financial analyst who's done 12 years in the City but has always wanted to teach. She's going to bring something different to the classroom.

It's not just about the job itself. It's also about life outside the classroom. We've organised nights at the Stratford Circus, the new arts space for east London, where they can see some theatre and get a glass of wine for pound;3. We have free days for teachers at Newham's new state-of-the-art gym complex where they can enrol at preferential rates. It's about making teachers feel valued.

But good management is also crucial. If heads can create the right atmosphere in their schools, where people feel they are part of a team, then we will not lose so many staff. Heads who are good with people can spot the ones who are getting fidgety and give them new challenges. We can help them move on within the borough. But people in education worry too much that recruitment is peculiar to them.

It's not. It's right across employment. People are not staying in jobs for life now. Young people want to be able to dip in and out of jobs, but that doesn't make their contribution any less valuable. The world of work is different now. People will come in at 22 but also at other stages of their lives.

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