Cash reserve for supply staff starts to run empty

21st September 2001 at 01:00
The recruitment crisis must seem like a myth to the 10,000 out-of-work teachers but is all too real to heads who are running out of cash

HEADTEACHERS are running out of money to pay supply staff, and say they will struggle to find funds to replace sick teachers over the next six months.

A high level of sickness and work-related stress caused many teachers to take time off last term, forcing heads to spend thousands of pounds on supply. It is feared schools might have to send children home because they will not be able to afford cover.

Oriel high school in Norfolk, which narrowly averted starting this term on a four-day week, has already spent two-thirds of its year's supply teacher budget.

During April to July, the school spent pound;40,000 of its pound;61,000 annual budget for supply teachers. With staff absence running at 15 per cent, the school was having to hire up to five teachers a day.

Acting head Michael Dopson said: "Apart from the problem of funding, we also have a problem of finding supply teachers. If there is a major increase in the illness rate, we would just have to send the children home as we wouldn't be able to cope."

The school has now taken on 15 parent volunteers as classroom assistants to cover for teachers.

Kenneth Perris of Weavers school in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, said:

"We certainly spent more on supply teachers last term than we have ever done. We spent about pound;10,000 last term as we had some long-term absences. We also found it difficult to recruit teachers as some left before the spring term. The problem is we have to pay supply teacher rates and that costs more."

Mr Perris puts the long-term absences down to the amount of stress teachers are under from heavy workloads and large classes.

Peter Leech of Glan Ely school in Cardiff - which is on special measures - had half of his teachers off sick last term. He attributes absenteeism to low morale and stress from inspectors' visits. He now has a team of supply teachers working on fixed-term contracts.

Kate Griffin, headteacher of Greenford high school in Middlesex and vice-president of the Secondary Heads Association, is searching for new funds as the school exhausted its yearly budget for supply teachers in the period from April to September. She said: "We are going to have to find some other pots of money."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association for Head Teachers, said: "This is a common story and a very worrying one. We need to do some urgent research on the amount of money being spent on supply teachers - my guess is that it is enormous. Even insurance funds won't be able to cover the money needed.

"Heads will either have to continue taking money out of the budget and go into deficit or they will be forced to send children home."

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