Give drop-outs a reason to return

26th January 2001 at 00:00
There is a strange phenomenon at play in the emerging staffing crisis.

The Department for Education calculates that there are about 425,000 people with full qualified teacher status not working as teachers at present. Within a few thousand, this number is almost the same as the number of teachers required in the country's classrooms. So England and Wales does not have a shortage of qualified teachers at all; it is simply that many of them do not want to practise their craft.

Instead of looking to the other side of the world, we should turn the telescope around and look more closely to home.

What can be done to attract these teachers back into the profession they once chose? A first step might well be a pound;250 fillip to re-register. This couldbe followed by the issue of a laptop computer; subsidised child care facilities; and positive encouragement and proper status for job-shares.

If it all sounds costly, consider the alternatives. How much does a lost day's schooling cost each child? Now multiply it by 30. How many days will be lost as parents take time off work to look after their children? What impact is the request to "manage a few extra children in your class because no teacher is available" having on existing staff?

The teacher shortage obviously needs tackling on several fronts, but at least part of the solution to the developing crisis lies much closer to hand than those in power appear to realise.

Lez Smart

Education consultant, Merton Park, London SW20

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