THE quest to find supply teachers goes Underground next month.
Every Tube carriage in London will carry advertisements offering a guaranteed salary to anyone who signs up - regardless of the number of days that they end up working.
The ads, placed by Hertfordshire-based Teaching Personnel, show the increasing lengths supply agencies are going to to fill posts. Teaching Personnel is already offering teachers the chance to win pound;5,000 if they sign up, plus up to pound;100 for every colleague they persuade to join them.
There are some 4,000 Tube carriages and the total cost of advertising on a panel in each of them is around pound;40,000 per month, plus VAT.
Teaching Personnel plans to write off hundreds of thousands of pounds in salaries just to keep people on its books. It claims to have a database of 40,000 teachers as well as up to 4,000 schools guaranteeing to use it.
Graham Hellier, company chairman, admitted it had become costly to recruit staff.
In the past, he said, it had cost around pound;6 in advertising per applicant, but now the figure was likely to be from pound;100 to pound;150. <> David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Supply teachers in London are worth their weight in gold."
Mr Hart reported cases of headteachers having to refuse to release staff for training because they could not find cover.
And he predicted major problems in the autumn in finding permanent and supply staff - particulary in the South-east.
"I can see no reason why things should have got any better than the summer term," said Mr Hart.
Official figures show that the number of supply teachers in secondary schools in January has increased by 1,300 in the past two years and by 2,200 in primaries.
At the start of the year, 5,300 supply staff were working in secondaries and 10,500 in primaries.
Many local authorities said the boom in supply staff was caused by a flu epidemic.
But Ian Penman, chairman of Timeplan, one of Britain's largest supply agencies, said shortages were now "unbelievable".
His company has taken headteachers to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa to recruit staff. More trips are planned on behalf of five councils, each of which needs between 50 and 70 teachers.
"The shortage has been absolutely desperate," he said.