Global search nets 25 bodies

31st August 2001 at 01:00
It has been an epic feat, but now Essex head John Fairhurst is counting the cost of his recruitment spree. Mithran Samuel and Karen Thornton report.

PUPILS at an Essex secondary will have to get used to 25 new names and faces when they return to school.

Additions to the teaching staff come from as far afield as Australia and South Africa and, although Shenfield school is expanding, 19 of the new appointments spring from staff resignations.

John Fairhurst, head of the Brentwood school, said most of those who had left had stayed in teaching. He said many had taken promotions at other schools, in some cases in spite of being inexperienced. He said: "Some of my brightest young teachers have had considerable promotions."

Mr Fairhurst does not begrudge staff their promotions, but a few departures have left a bitter taste. In one case he fell victim to the growing practice of schools poaching from each other.

"We had somebody who had joined on plus two points after three or four years' experience, but her old school has taken her back on plus four," he said. "It was a case of them upping her offer and upping it again."

He has had to play the incentives game too. "I've had to create additional management posts and have appointed a literacy and numeracy co-ordinator in this way."

But even this has not been enough. Mr Fairhurst said: "Some of the resignations came so late in the day that it was nigh on impossible to replace them."

So agency staff will make up seven of the new additions. Six of the crop hail from Australia, Canada or South Africa and have been recruited on the basis of telephone interviews.

He estimated each of these overseas recruits was costing the school pound;10,000 over and above their basic salary.

"It's playing havoc with the budget," he said. "We've been given a pound;25,000 recruitment and retention grant, but it has cost us more than double that."

At nearby Hedley Walter high, headteacher David Spinney overspent his pound;25,000 government recruitment grant by pound;40,000 to fill 23 gaps for the new year.

But he still had two staff poached by schools offering higher salaries. "Nothing was advertised and in one case there wasn't even an interview, just a telephone call."

He said it was mainly younger teachers, aged 22 and 30, leaving because of the cost of living in the South-east. The school has now leased two houses, within five minutes walk, to let to seven staff members at subsidised rates.

Supply staff will cover three posts this term and Mr Spinney confessed that in at least one case he was not getting the level of experience he wanted. He said: "One has never taught anyone above the age of 14 and will have to teach GCSE English."

One of the highest numbers of appointments made for September was at Bideford College in North Devon. Headteacher Roland Chant has 30 staff starting work next week - but still has three maths vacancies to fill. They, along with a vacancy in religious education, are being covered by temporary appointments.

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