10,000 extra staff needed in four years

11th August 2000 at 01:00
Desperation for schools as 'embarrassing' wages and low morale leave them unable to fill vacancies. Clare Dean reports.

SCHOOLS, which are already reporting a severe recruitment crisis, will have to find an extra 10,000 teachers in the next four years as the number of pupils rises by around 180,000.

Desperate tales of the difficulties they face in finding these staff emerge in research published this week, which will make sober reading for ministers and educationists.

Recruitment problems are now limiting the ability of schools, particularly in London, to teach the full range of subjects to the required standard.

Pupils at one inner London secondary have been taught by 13 maths teachers in the past 12 months, technology lessons have been cut for pupils in another school, while a third school confessed to axing IT for 12-year-olds.

Official vacancy rates, according to the Department for Education and Employment, January 2000 figures, are relatively low - less than 1 per cent - although they have risen over the past six years.

But the picture in schools is of a recruitment problem which has grown steadily worse over the past year. There are also serious shortfalls in the number of applicants to initial teacher training - 17 per below an already-reduced target set for secondary schools last year.

London has the biggest problems with the highest vacancy levels in tougher, poorer boroughs such as Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth.

And some 40 per cent of all teachers are expected to leave London in the next five years because they can't afford to stay there, according to research carried out by the University of North London earlier this ear.

The high costs of living in the capital is constantly cited by headteachers, governors and councils as a key factor affecting recruitment.But research conducted for the School Teachers' Review Body, shows that recruitment problems are not just limited to London.

It reveals that a rural primary received just seven applications for the post of key stage 1 co-ordinator and that none of the seven was suitable for short-listing.

Two years ago, when a similar post was advertised at the same school, it received nearly 150 applications.

Elsewhere, research discovered an outer London secondary school which had advertised 17 times during the past two years for maths teachers but had managed to find just one suitable candidate.

Particularly worrying were the career plans of four newly qualified teachers at an outer London school. One had already handed in her notice, another was planning to leave teaching altogether after one more year and the third simply wanted to move to another school. Only one was keen to stay at the school.

Key complaints in focus groups involving 124 English and Welsh teachers were about pay, workload and limited career opportunities with newly qualified staff describing their salaries as demoralising and embarrassing.

A teacher who had been in the profession for 20 years said that her daughter, after four years as a graduate trainee at Marks and Spencer, already earned more than she did.

The research, commissioned by the Office for Manpower Economics for the review body, was based on an analysis of existing data, as well as focus groups and a sample of 12 local authorities and 24 schools.

Letters, 12

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