In Manchester, the jostling for maths NQTs is reaching fever pitch with poaching of staff now rife, report Nic Barnard and Warwick Mansell
Student teachers in shortage subjects such as maths are being bombarded with requests from schools to come for an interview - three months before finishing their courses.
And one Essex school is offering newly-qualified teachers almost pound;5,000 as a "golden handcuff" - but only if they stay for three years. St Martin's school, in Brentwood, will also give appointees the regulation pound;765 London fringe allowance, plus Essex's mortgage and rent subsidies. The school even offers on-site accommodation to new teachers.
The handcuffs of pound;4,638 are equivalent to one recruitment and retention point in the first year, two in the second and three in the third. Deputy head Gloria Dixon, in charge of recruitment, said: "This year is even more difficult. Everybody is robbing everybody else. Some schools are offering points for teachers whom you normally wouldn't give a point to.
"If you find anyone that's standing up, you phone them and grab them."
No direct poaching has taken place in the Brentwood area, Ms Dixon said. "But young staff see these adverts with an extra point or two extra points and they go for them. We can't go on like that ad infinitum."
Dave Hewitt, senior lecturer in maths education at the University of Birmingham, said some of the city's heads were getting desperate for maths teachers. Last year's shortfall, which had seen around 10 secondary schools left without a head of maths at the end of the academic year, had worsened.
He said: "Some heads are quite prepared to offer more points, laptops, quite a gentle timetable for teachers in their NQ year. This year, almost every school I have visited has had vacancies. I know of schools which have advertised twice and got no applications."
Barbara Craig, PGCE maths co-ordinator at Manchester Metropolitan University, said calls from schools inquiring about the availability of students for interviews arrived earlier each year.
She said: "Last year, it wasn't until June or July that we were getting these calls. This year, it started in January."
WHEN YOU'RE HOT YOU'RE HOT
SCHOOLS in Manchester are not slow to act if they think a rival is about to secure the services of that prized specimen - the newly-qualified maths teacher.
That, at least, is the view of final-year trainee Claire Sidlow, who has benefited from increasingly fevered competition over the past few weeks.
Miss Sidlow, 22, who is about to complete a two-year postgraduate certificate in education course at Manchester Metropolitan University, applied last month for a position with the inner-city comprehensive where she has been on teaching placement.
Alternative offers, however, were not hard to come by, and before the school had been able to interview her, three other potential employers had expressed an interest.
But her current school was not to be deterred. Immediately, it brought forward her interview date, and was able to make her an offer before she had even visited the other schools.
Miss Sidlow accepted, attracted in part by the opport-unity to start work before the summer holidays. The whole process lasted only two weeks.
She said: "Schools are calling our course tutors all the time asking to be put in touch with students. It's quite a strong position to be in."