Staff crisis worsens as thousands quit

4th May 2001 at 01:00
Schools are 'haemorrhaging' teachers and recruitment cannot keep up. Clare Dean reports.

SCHOOLS are losing teachers faster than they can recruit them as young staff quit and others get out once they are 50. The scale of the crisis is reflected this week in another bumper TES jobs section.

Official statistics show that thousands more are leaving the profession than joining it, with schools plugging the gaps with temporary staff.

More than 8,000 vacancies appear in this week's TES, taking the total number of jobs advertised in the last fortnight alone above 17,000 - more than 80 per cent up on the equivalent weeks last year.

These vacancies reflect a record number of unfilled posts and unknown numbers resigning or retiring this term.

Ministers point to the fact that there are 11,000 more teachers in post than in 1997. They also say extra money they have given schools is being spent on recruitment, fuelling the jobs rush.

But, while schools admit that they have more money to spend on staff, they insist both young and experienced teachers are quitting. Some warn that half of the profession will go within 16 years.

Alan Smithers, director of Liverpool University's centre for education and employment research, said: "We are seeing the cumulative effects of failing to recruit for a number of years and the pressures on teachers such as workload, working conditions and pupil behaviour.

"Also, staff who were part of the bulge in teachers we saw in the 1970s are coming up to retirement, so the number of retirements is going up."

Recruitment analyst John Howson, professor of education at Oxford Brookes University, said: "The crisis shows no sign of easing for teachers or senior staff."

The number of vacant headships increased by a quarter compared with April 2000 while the number of ads for deputy head posts rose 37 per cent.

Latest figures show that more than 40,000 teachers below the age of 40 quit between 1993 and 1999, a further 26,000 aged between 40 and 50 left in the same period.

Around 26,700 people complted training in 1998, but only 19,120 were still in teaching the following year. In 1999, the latest year for which there are official statistics, 15,500 entered teaching while 29,800 left - a shortfall of 14,300 people.

Nearly 28,000 people started teacher training last autumn, but there is no way of knowing how many teachers are leaving this term and need replacing. Applications for next year's postgraduate courses have jumped by a quarter on this time last year. But it will be at least a year before these students start teaching.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We are haemorrhaging badly." John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "We are heading for an even worse situation in September."

The crisis is good news for newly-qualified teachers who have never been so much in demand. Diana Brightling, teacher training co-ordinator at the University of Brighton, said: "For students coming out of training, the world is their oyster."

News, 4; Opinion, 21


Recruitment is top of the agenda at St Michael's primary in Aldbourne, near Marlborough in Wiltshire, where the 100-pupil school must replace both its head and deputy by September.

Linda Smith, the headteacher, is moving on while her deputy, Damat Mirehouse, is becoming head of another school.

"It is coincidence that we are leaving at the same time," said Mrs Smith. "But it can be good to have a new head and deputy starting together because you can build a strong management team."

The school for four to 11-year-olds has had five different heads since 1996, according to its latest inspection report.

Bob Wolfson, chief education officer, said recruitment problems were exacerbated by the high cost of living in the area.

Meanwhile, Bishop Creighton primary in Peterborough lists an unusual incentive in the hope of attracting a deputy head. The city-centre school says it is 500 metres from the cathedral... "and five minutes from Marks and Spencer".

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