Smart moves pay off
A recent survey by the human resource management research centre at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education found wide variations in the relocation support local authorities offer professional employees. "What we are increasingly seeing is a move to the private-sector system where if there is a small number of jobs and a glut of people in the market, employers see no need to pay them to relocate," said Mark Saunders, who carried out the survey of 200 local authorities in England and Wales.
Grant-maintained schools seem no more likely to pay relocation expenses than those under local authority control. Hendon School, in the north London borough of Barnet, looked at the possibility of offering a recruitment package five or six years ago when many schools were having trouble recruiting staff. "But over the past few years we've had such good fields of applicants that we never needed to pursue the idea," said the school's head, Bob Lloyd.
Predictably, most of the local authorities which pay teachers' relocation expenses are in the south-east of England where, despite the slump in the housing market, house prices remain higher than elsewhere. One such authority is Buckinghamshire County Council, which offers up to Pounds 5,000 to new recruits buying and selling a house and up to Pounds 2,500 to first-time buyers.
Other authorities, including Kent and Enfield, target their relocation packages at specific groups of staff. The Enfield package is designed for people who teach shortage subjects and for those appointed to posts attracting a "C" allowance or above. These two groups of staff can claim up to Pounds 6, 000 to cover their removal expenses, legal fees, temporary housing costs and other relocation expenses. In practice, most of those benefiting from the scheme are headteachers and deputies.
The outer London borough of Hillingdon, on the other hand, restricts relocation payments to newly-qualified teachers, offering up to Pounds 1,200 to those buying, but not renting, a property in the area. The authority used to offer a much wider range of recruitment incentives but scrapped these as teaching vacancies became easier to fill. With the allocation of most of its education budget to locally-managed schools, Hillingdon, like other authorities, also found these incentives increasingly difficult to fund.
Where no local authority scheme exists, schools sometimes make relocation payments out of their own budgets. The London borough of Haringey, for example, does not give teachers any relocation support. But a primary school in one of the pricier parts of the borough which recently advertised for a new headteacher offered an "attractive salary . . . together with relocation expenses where appropriate".
Outside London and the South-east, few schools or LEAs offer any financial support to teachers who are relocating, though Birmingham does pay up to Pounds 400 towards their removal expenses.
In Scotland, it is rare for any authority to offer support to teachers moving from another authority. But the main teachers' union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, has a long standing national agreement covering any teacher who is compulsorily transferred and has to move house within a single local authority area. This entitles teachers to claim travel expenses to their new school for up to four years and to take up to three days' paid leave to look for new accommodation. They can also claim removal expenses, a temporary lodgings allowance and payment of all their legal house-agents' fees.
But as local government reorganisation in Scotland has created unitary local authorities covering smaller geographical areas, the EIS expects the agreement to become largely redundant in future.
Across Britain as a whole, schools may need to think again about their relocation policies as they appoint more and more teachers on fixed-term contracts. Though the Cheltenham and Gloucester College survey identified uncertainty about employment as one of the main barriers to job mobility, existing teacher-relocation schemes often apply only to permanent staff. At least some mortgage lenders, such as the Bank of Ireland, now treat teachers on contracts of six months or more in the same way as it does permanent employees. If schools want to attract strong fields of candidates for fixed-term appointments, they will need to do the same.