Education Secretary David Blunkett is considering giving pupils a second extra day off to allow their teachers to be trained for changes to key stage 3. The two extra days would be on top of the five training days teachers get annually.
Mr Blunkett has revealed that he had authorised one extra day, and speaking exclusively to The TES, said he would consider the unions' demand for a second day as long as pupils' education was not jeopardised.
This summer, secondary staff are due to train for the introduction of versions of the literacy and numeracy strategies into the early years of secondary.
Without extra training days, the national introduction of the scheme should be delayed until 2002, say the Secondary Heads Association and the National Association of Head Teachers. Teacher shortages will make it impossible for staff to train because of the lack of supply cover, they argue.
Mr Blunkett told The TES: "I have already given an extra day for key sage 3 training, as well as approving an extra day off for the Jubilee. I am prepared to examine that further in terms of how that would help without disrupting the ability of teachers to deliver the curriculum. But it is beholden on schools to look carefully at the training days that already exist."
All secondaries are due to introduce new maths and English teaching programmes after a pilot in 200 schools this year.
Training, delivered by local authorities, will begin after Easter for English and maths specialists, with their lessons taken by supply teachers.
John Dunford, SHA general secretary, said: "It would be absolutely impossible to get the numbers of supply teachers that will be required by this major government initiative."
Arthur de Caux, NAHT education officer, said the local authority-delivered training compounded the problem, as it removed all specialists in an area at once. He said: "It is already virtually impossible to find supply teachers in some areas. This is just going to make the teacher supply crisis worse."
Blunkett interview, 5 Opinion, 16