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State poaches private teachers

GERMANY

A row has erupted in Berlin over its poaching of teachers from private schools to make up for teacher shortages in state schools.

Church-run schools in particular are accusing authorities of using "questionable" tactics to entice the best teachers.

"We have asked the Berlin authority not to act in such a predatory manner," said Manfred Hermann of the Protestant Schools Service which runs seven schools in Berlin. It lost a dozen teachers to the state this year.

The private Kant School says it has lost 10 per cent of its staff since January. The eight Steiner-Waldorf schools lost 15 teachers. Dozens more are being lost, mostly in shortage subjects such as science and languages.

Although state and private salaries are similar, state employees enjoy job security and significant pension and health insurance advantages.

"We cannot provide all the advantages and perks of public service which are negotiated by hugely powerful civil service unions," says Reinhard Lampe, spokesman for the Protestant Church. Tachers in the former east who still earn up to 15 per cent less than their western colleagues are easily tempted by Berlin's new recruitment campaign.

Churches and other private schools continued hiring teachers during the state hiring freeze over the past decade and have significant numbers of younger, experienced teachers.

"Without the church schools the authorities would find mostly very recently qualified teachers," said the Catholic spokeswoman.

"They tell teachers: this is a 'once in a lifetime' offer and they (the teachers) must decide quickly. If they miss this golden opportunity, they cannot be taken up into the civil service later," says a spokeswoman for the Catholic church.

Many teachers leave with minimum notice, mid-term, making it hard to find replacements.

The Catholic church which runs 22 schools has lost 14 teachers, with more likely to go before the end of the school year. "We're at our wit's end," says Mr. Hermann.

Berlin says it will hire 1,000 new teachers next school year.


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