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Sea, sand and a job with perks

Ah, Southend! Evocative of whelks and jellied eels, rolled-up trouser legs, knotted hankies and rude postcards.

Er? Yes. Well, actually, these days Southend-on-Sea not only sells itself as a vibrant tourist destination - it's the closest coastal resort to London - but also as a great place to live and work. Southend is famous for having the world's longest pleasure pier. A lesser-known, but equally fascinating, fact is that its local education authority is the highest delegating authority in the country, with 88 per cent of its spending going directly to schools.

That is fascinating.

I knew you'd like it.

While recruitment is done by the schools themselves, the LEA, Southend Borough Council, encourages them to offer attractive incentive packages to woo teachers and headteachers, including subsidised accommodation, childcare and early start schemes where you are paid from June or July even though you don't start until September.

Many vacancies? No, not in guest houses - in teaching!

Southend-on-Sea has managed to escape the recruitment crisis that has plagued some parts of Essex. In September, vacancies were minimal. However, there are expected to be a few more in the new year.

The borough has 12 secondary schools, 44 primaries and four special schools. Of these 60 schools, 18 are foundation and the res are community schools.

Southend Borough Council is a unitary authority, created in April 1998. It is bracing itself for its first Office for Standards in Education inspection in the spring.

Newly qualified teachers get a warm welcome, says Anastasia Simpson, principal recruitment officer. "We put on a lot of barbecues and other social events to make them feel at home," she says.

Hurrah! Sea, sand, sun and barbecues!

Don't get carried away, this is the Thames estuary we're talking about. But admittedly Southend does have seven miles of seafront, ranging from sandy beaches to pebbles.

There are a surprising number of restaurants and wine bars too. The town has some big events in its calendar, including an annual air show, a jazz week and open air concerts.

For escaping, it has London Southend airport, which offers flights to the Channel Islands, and there are two rail lines to London.

House prices can't be that cheap?

You can pick up a three-bedroom semi-detached house for around pound;85,000, although in the posher areas such as Thorpe Bay prices go up to around pound;130,000.

To rent a three-bedroom semi, you will pay around pound;650 a month, while the monthly cost of renting a one-bedrom flat is between pound;300 and pound;350.

Famous sons and daughters?

Actress Helen Mirren, actor Ross Kemp.

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