WELSH teachers have agreed to be bussed to London in an attempt to alleviate the capital's shortage of supply staff.
The flu outbreak and the global millennium celebrations have combined to leave some London schools short of a third of their teachers, according to Ray Mercer, managing director of LHR, the employment agency which has recruited the Welsh staff.
Mr Mercer said that one west London school, which does not want to be named, was short of 22 staff earlier this week. It phoned every agency in the capital but was unable to get a single teacher.
LHR in Newport plans initially drive 10 Welsh teachers to London and back every day. The aim is to recruit "as many as possible as soon as possible" and ultimately to help them find accommodation during the week, said Mr Mercer.
He admitted, however, that Welsh staff are often nervous of working in he capital and that the first busload would be unlikely to set off for another couple of weeks.
About 2,000 Antipodean teachers went home to see in the new year. High air fares over the holiday period have delayed their return, said Mr Mercer.
Last week LHR and its sister company Capstan, which provide about 10,000 supply teachers a week for English schools, were unable to fill an estimated 500 vacancies in London.
Roger Marsh, Capstan's client service manager in Sheffield, said his office was "approaching breaking point. Teachers seem to be dropping like flies from the flu," he said, "and a lot of courses have been organised for this month."
Both Mr Marsh and Mr Mercer expressed concern for the health of their own staff, currently putting in a 60 or 70-hour week. "I've put lots of big bowls of fruit round the office," said Mr Mercer.