THE acuteness of the growing shortage of mathematics teachers, especially south of the border, is illustrated in the failure of a worldwide trawl by a school lasting eight months that attracted only half-a-dozen unsuitable applicants.
Kemnal Technology College, an expanding foundation school in Sidcup, Kent, is using the graduate recruitment scheme to retrain two of its own administrative staff in the face of a staffing crisis in the subject.
John Atkins, the college's principal, has now written to David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, bemoaning the lack of response and the quality of those that applied. He said that some would-be maths teachers were not fit to "walk my dog, let alone teach a class".
Since November last year, the school had: Placed adverts on its own website and that of the Technology Colleges Trust.
Placed five adverts in The TES, the last of which offered an enhanced salary to those with the potential to go through the threshold or be fast-tracked.
Advertised in Australia and South Africa.
Contacted a total of eight teacher training institutions asking for graduates.
Investigated offering on-the-job training opportunities to graduates without a teaching qualification.
Bill Richardson, chairman of the Maths Association, said: "I don't think it's helpfl to imply, on the basis of an experience of half a dozen applications, that there are no good teachers out there. But I can understand his frustration. There is an acute shortage of maths teachers, and the Government's attention needs to be drawn to that fact."
Another secondary, Riverside Community College in Leicester, filled three maths vacancies with two teachers from Namibia and one from Canada after advertising on The TES website. Maths teacher vacancies have risen by 66 per cent in the past 12 months, with 5,000 advertisements carried in The TES since September.
Recruitment analyst John Howson said that the number of newly qualified maths specialists looking for jobs this year could be as low as 1,000 - not nearly enough to cover for the large numbers retiring or leaving the profession.
Even the introduction of pound;10,000 training salaries for students on maths postgraduate certificate in education courses may only ease the problem.
Last week, new Government figures revealed that, despite the announcement of the training salaries this spring, applications for maths PGCEs, though improving, remained below the level of this time last year.
The Home Office has blocked a Liberal Democrat suggestion to make the working holiday visa scheme for overseas teachers more flexible.