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Surrey probes South America for teachers

MORE than one in 20 teaching posts in Surrey has been advertised this year and its search for teachers has now spread to South America.

Surrey, which is one of the country's largest education authorities, sent a delegation of headteachers across the Atlantic earlier this month after the county's schools posted a record 400 job advertisements - about 6 per cent of its 7,000-strong teaching force.

The three heads visited Raleigh, north Carolina, teaming up with a company that places foreign teachers in American schools and is now offering them the chance to go to Britain.

The heads interviewed around 50 teachers and have signed up 15 for one-year secondments. The visitors, who will arrive in August, hail from as far away as Venezuela, Costa Rica and Canada. The link with American firm Visiting International Faculty is thought to be the first of its kind in the country. Many schools and councils have signed up with UK supply companies over the past year.

Robert Linnell, head of Ash Manor secondary shool, near Aldershot, who was on the trip and held interviews, said the teachers were "excellent", had lots of experience and would add an international dimension to pupils' education.

He said the trip was a reflection of schools' recruitment difficulties. "In a number of Surrey schools, there is going to be a large turnover this year. Heads are worried what will happen in September."

John White, head of education personnel at Surrey council, said national recruitment problems were exacerbated by escalating house prices in the county. The vacancy rate could be inflated by newly-qualified teachers shopping around before committing themselves to schools, he said.

He added: "We have anecdotal evidence, which seems to be coming up more frequently now, that teachers are leaving the profession because they are fed up with the workload and being criticised all the time by the public and the media."

Surrey's move comes after The TES carried 17,000 ads in a fortnight at the start of this term.

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