Making a drama out of a staff shortage

16th March 2001 at 00:00
THE schools survey of teacher vacancies carried out by the Secondary Heads Association and The TES drew regional response rates ranging from 40 to 10 per cent (TES, March 9).

Implying total vacancies as a result is just plainly inaccurate. All figures show them on average at 0.8 per cent, which is the same as the past two years. There are problems but they vary in different parts of the country.

Schools have had to recruit more teachers this year because of more pupils, smaller infant classes, and an increase in staff turnover rising to more than 20 per cent in some parts of London.

Measures are being taken to see that the situation improves. The recruitment of staff is up this year, the salary increase for all staff is well above inflation with many receiving pound;2,000 backdated to September 2000, and the retention bonuses will help challenging schools. Classroom assistants and the Excellence in Cities programmes have helped to relieve some of the stress on staff.

Much more need to be done to make teaching an attractive career. The national employers are discussing with teacher unions how recruitment problems can be addressed and how the issue of cover can be looked at in a more imaginative way. This would mean changing conditions of service but the present cover arrangements, especially in primary schools, are indefensible.

The situation is serious but it is not a crisis, nor are there as many vacancies as there were, for instance, in 1990. Action is needed to improve the supply and retention of teachers and that is what is happening. "No-cover" action is not likely to help.

Councillor Graham Lane

Chair, education and lifelong learning executive, Local Government Association

110 Humberstone Road, London E13

The editor writes: The DFEE's vacancy rate of 0.8 per cent would mean a total of 1,645 secondary vacancies in England and Wales. Our survey found 2,410 vacancies for full-time permanent staff in just 23 per cent of those schools.

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