Schools struggle with maths exodus

14th July 2000 at 01:00
The advertising campaigns for new staff are not working, say headteachers.

Clare Dean and Amanda Kelly report

MATHS teacher vacancies have risen by a massive 66 per cent in the past 12 months and many schools will be forced to start the new academic year without vital staff.

With large numbers retiring or deserting the profession, the number of vacancies will far exceed the 1,200 newly-qualified maths teachers expected to leave training colleges this term.

The TES has carried more than 5,000 adverts for maths teachers since September, compared with 3,000 last year. More than 2,000 of these appeared during the spring term.

Maths and science have traditionally been difficult subjects to staff but recruitment analyst Professor John Howson said: "The problem is getting worse.

At both the top end and middle of people's careers, they are leaving maths and going into other things."

Riverside Community College in Leicester has been struggling to appoint five maths teachers, including the department head, since Easter. But, despite extensive advertising, it has had virtually no response.

Principal Tim Bos said: "We have placed dozens of adverts in the local and national press and at the teacher-training colleges and we are simply getting no response. Whether it's because we have just come out of special measures and have some challenging pupils, I don't know.

"The only joy we seem to be having is recruiting via theInternet. We recently employed two members of staff from Namibia and they have turned out to be very successful appointments. I can see us relying more and more on attracting people from overseas."

Kings Langley secondary school, Hertfordshire, has had a maths vacancy for more than a year now and has still had no success in filling it.

The situation is all the more pressing because its latest school inspection blamed severe staffing shortages for shortcomings in teaching.

Headteacher Alick Burge said: "In the meantime, we are having to rely on supply teachers and that isn't as easy as it used to be either. Three years ago, the agencies could provide you with anyone you wanted, but now they themselves are struggling to find the people."

TimePlan, Britain's largest teacher recruitment agency, said it was experiencing unprecedented demand for teachers of all subjects. A spokeswoman said: "Demand across the curriculum is tremendous.

"For secondary teachers, we are experiencing the usual shortage of maths, science and language specialists but, more surprisingly, we also have 111 English teaching posts on our books.

"Half of all the long-term vacancies we have dealt with for September have been filled with teachers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa."

It is hoped that training salaries from September and "golden hello" payments for recruits in shortage subjects will help to reverse the crisis.

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