Heads forced to hire bad teachers

31st August 2001 at 01:00
Standards are in jeopardy , as schools appoint staff they would rather 'not touch with a barge pole'

DAMNING new figures on the recruitment crisis reveal that one in five teachers appointed for the start of the school year is unsatisfactory.

A survey of more than 800 state secondaries by The TES and the Secondary Heads Association shows how staff shortages are damaging the drive to raise standards.

Heads were unhappy with 1,372 of the 7,127 appointments they made. If this is typical, it would mean that 6,000 of the 30,000 appointments in England and Wales were unsatisfactory.

Many schools have had to appoint people who were unqualified, teaching a subject not their own, or overseas recruits unfamiliar with the curriculum.

Just a month ago, schools minister Stephen Timms claimed that schools would have all the teachers they needed come September.

The head of a Kent secondary modern school said: "It makes you wonder what planet he's on."

The TES SHA survey findings are based on responses from 827 secondaries at the end of last term.

They pose serious questions for the Government which has made raising standards in secondary schools the overriding priority of its second term.

And it comes just three days after chief inspector Mike Tomlinson claimed teacher shortages were the worst for 36 years and that 40 per cent of newly-qualified staff were quitting within three years.

Today Demos, the left-wing think tank, warns in a report that the teaching crisis is long-term, not cyclical, and urges a major overhaul of the profession.

John Dunford, general secretary of the SHA, warned: "Five thousand vacancies and numerous unsatisfactory appointments will make the coming term very difficult for many schools. This is certain to affect the capacity of schools to continue to raise standards."

Stop-gap measures include heads recruiting people who would not have been shortlisted five years ago.

Even schools relatively successful in attracting staff have been affected by large turnovers as teachers leave in pursuit of recruitment bonuses and golden hellos. One school starts with 30 new recruits.

Some schools are now considering building houses for teachers on their playing fields.

Among the worst cases were:

* The head of a South-east comprehensive who appointed two teachers who "walked in off the street, with no qualifications".

* A West Midlands comprehensive that is considering hiring former linguists with no teaching experience.

* A Norfolk head unable to find a single supply teacher since February.

One head, from a North-west comprehensive, said: "We are appointing staff who, in a perfect world, we would not touch with a barge pole."

The survey undermines repeated claims by ministers that the shortfall is concentrated in London and the South-east. Vacancy rates in Yorkshire and the Humber and the East of England were as high as those in the capital, at 21 per cent. Only in Wales was the rate less than 15 per cent. Maths, English, science and technology remained the hardest subjects to find teachers for, with vacancies in maths averaging one for every five schools.

The Department for Education and Skills said there were now 12,000 more teachers than in 1998, but the Government was not "complacent". Ministers had invested pound;35 million in recruitment and retention allowances, and pound;92m on continuing professional development for teachers. Inspection evidence showed improvements in the quality of trainees. A spokeswoman said:"We would be concerned if any head felt unable to draw upon a sufficient pool of satisfactory applicants."

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