A job lot of new worries

27th April 2001 at 01:00
The deluge of jobs in this week's TES underlines once again the ominous situation many schools face as they scramble to recruit for the autumn term. There is invariably a peak in advertising around the first week of the summer term since schools have to make appointments by the end of May. The equivalent week last year also saw unprecedented advertising volumes. But this week broke even that record - and by at least 70 per cent.

Perhaps this will finally convince the Department for Education and Employment that schools are facing serious, even catastrophic, shortages. Until now the department has seemed to be in denial of the true picture. Until last week it was insisting there was no increase in primary vacancies this year and only a 10 to 20 per cent one in secondary, in spite of the clear evidence that there are growing gaps in the teaching force. Those gaps will be even worse in September if the extra teachers now being funded and the unknown number quitting the profession thi term outnumber new recruits.

Serious shortfalls have been clear for over a year, and not just in the surveys carried out jointly by The TES and the Secondary Heads Association. Headteachers, recruitment specialists and supply agencies have all been signalling danger. Even Mike Tomlinson, the new chief inspector of schools, bluntly warned in his first annual report that "urgent action is now needed more than ever on recruitment and retention".

The latest official figures point belatedly to a doubling of vacancies in secondary schools over the past year. But, even now, the department suggests this is only because education authorities were unduly influenced by "media concern" when collecting numbers.

Little wonder ministers' emergency action to persuade former teachers back to the classroom was so little and so late if it was based on such insight. Repeated warnings have been dismissed. But it is hard to see how this week's 9,000-plus vacancies can be ignored.

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