Island faces teacher exodus

28th September 2007 at 01:00
More than two thirds of high-school teachers on the Isle of Wight would consider leaving the island or their profession if plans to create schools for 14- to 19-year-olds go ahead, a poll has suggested.

Teaching unions have also seen council documents showing that all 341 teachers in the island's five high schools would have to reapply for their jobs under the proposals, because their schools would be closed.

The scheme, reported in The TES in March, would see 16 middle schools extended by an extra year, spanning Years 5 to 9. The high schools would be replaced with a federation of five 14-19 learning centres, enabling the council to offer a wider range of courses and the new work-related diplomas.

Isle of Wight Council has calculated there will be no forced job losses in the reorganisation, but council papers reveal 120 high school teachers and the same number of support staff would have to take jobs in middle schools, where they would lose the opportunity to teach GCSE or A-level.

A National Union of Teachers poll of half of the island's high-school teachers found that around 70 per cent would consider leaving if the plans went ahead.

Headteachers have already warned that the island has recruitment problems because of its distance from the mainland, its dowdy image and poor academic record.

Uncertainty about the future of the island's education system is being exacerbated by the sudden resignation of councillor Patrick Joyce, cabinet member for education on Isle of Wight Council, and his deputy, although neither departure is connected to the changes.

The Isle of Wight has long been locked in debate over the fate of its middle schools, which are popular with parents. The island's Conservative council won the last election on the basis it would retain them.

David Porter, island secretary for the NASUWT, said: "There is clear documentary evidence stating all high-school teachers will have to prepare CVs. They will be technically redundant and must reapply for fewer posts in the new learning centres.

"If those left over refuse a post in a middle school, they will be deemed to have resigned."

Steve Beynon, the Isle of Wight's director of children's services, said no statement on the impact on staff would be made until after the proposals had been considered at full council in October.

He added: "Whatever changes are made, there will still be the same number of pupils to teach and any figures quoted by unions are merely speculation."

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