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Staffing crisis is not over yet

Has the staffing crisis in secondary schools reached its peak?

Vacancies for January 2002 are below the record levels of 2001, but the data from individual subjects present a more mixed picture.

Vacancies in several of the main subjects, such as maths, sciences, languages and English, are down on last year, as are vacancies in RE and information technology. However, in subjects such as drama, history, geography, design and technology, art, craft and design, music and physical education, the vacancy total was up.

The true extent of the problem is also obscured by the dedicated efforts of heads and recruitment staff to "plug" gaps. But it would appear that the biggest rise has been in geography, up from 51 to 70 vacancies in one year.

Subjects that have seen improvements may be benefiting from an expansion of recruitment, especially in school-based training. Nevertheless, to fill current vacancies a 20 per cent increase in new entrants would still be required.

But this is without any further increases to replace temporary teachers, to cope with rising retirement rates or to accommodate curriculum changes. So, it would appear that there is a way to go.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and a director of Education Data Surveys. Email:

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