Heads across the country confirm the crisis is hitting their schools. Clare Dean reports.
TEACHER shortages hit crisis level this week as evidence collected from almost half the secondary schools in England and Wales suggested more than 4,000 vacancies remain unfilled at the start of the academic year.
Headteachers admitted employing unqualified and poorly- trained teachers in desperate attempts to combat staff shortages and complained about both the quality and quantity of applicants.
In one of the most extreme cases, the head of a London secondary spoke of being gazumped by other schools trying to recruit science teachers.
Elsewhere, heads in Essex, Devon and Nottinghamshire admitted they were looking at, and employing staff they never would have considered before.
The TES revealed exclusively on its website on Monday that nearly three out of four heads say recruitment is worse than last year.
Evidence collected from more than 1,600 schools in England and Wales over the summer holiday disclosed 1,734 vacancies at the start of the new academic year
If these shortages were replicated across the 3,800 secondaries they would amount to 4,080 jobs.
The survey, conducted by The TES and the Secondary Heads Association, revealed that one in four maths vacancies, one in five English posts and one in six science jobs advertised for September remain unfilled.
John Dunford, general secretary of SHA, said: "Schools have become desperate. Teachers and heads spend their lives trying to build up standards and this is going to prevent them."
Teacher shortages remain acte in the capital - half of all maths and technology jobs in inner-London secondaries are unfilled - - but it is clear from the TESSHA survey that the problem has spread.
North Yorkshire and the East of England now have problems filling vacancies for maths and English posts. The South-west and the North-east have the biggest problems recruiting for science posts.
"The situation is catastrophic," said John Darker, head of the Beacon School in Banstead, Surrey. "The prospect of removing subjects from the timetable is now real, not a fantasy."
John Wilson, head of Wyndham School in Egremont, Cumbria, added: "You don't recruit teachers now - you hunt them."
Latest official figures show that there were 3,280 unqualified teachers in schools in January 1999. Some are instructors, who do not receive training, others are on the graduate teaching programme.
The Department for Education and Employment was concerned by the findings of the TESSHA survey but a spokeswoman said that schools needed to plan recruitment carefully.
Shortages are unlikely to be helped by the news that emerged this week that the pound;4,000 "golden hellos" paid to newly-qualified teachers in shortage subjects would be taxed. For a teacher on pound;16,500, this will equate to a loss of around pound;1,000 through tax and national insurance.
Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, said: "The good news is that enquiries and applications to teacher training are up and this will contribute to the longer term solutions that we need."
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