What is the real position on vacancies? On the one hand, the recent TESSHA survey suggested there might be as many as 4,000 teacher vacancies in secondary schools. On the other, the Department for Education and Employment has suggested the total is much lower.
The TESSHA survey included posts that would have been excluded from the DFEE's figures, such as those covered by long-term supply teachers. Clearly, in the end it comes down to how one decides what should count as a vacancy. At present it still remains difficult to gain full up-to-date published evidence of the staffing situation in schools. However, there seems to be general agreement that the situation has worsened this year.
One area where figures are available is for headteachers. These vacancies must be advertised nationally and so are easier t track. However, schools rarely operate without someone acting in post so published vacancy rates can still be misleading. Using the adverts in The TES, it is possible to discover how many posts aren't being filled when first advertised by tracking second or subsequent adverts for the same headship.
This year, between May and July, 640 maintained schools advertised for a new head - 192 of these, or 30 per cent, failed to recruit and readvertised the post during September. All these schools will have someone running them, even if not on a permanent basis. Most will be hoping to make an appointment for January 2001.
As usual, London schools are facing the greatest challenge. Of the 56 headships in London advertised between May and the end of July, 30 have already reappeared in the pages of The TES.