Teacher famine strikes London and the South

11th August 2000 at 01:00
SCHOOLS south of the border, which are already reporting a severe recruitment crisis, will have to find an extra 10,000 teachers in the next four years as the number of pupils rises by around 180,000.

Desperate tales of the difficulties they face emerge in two research studies published this week, both of which will make sober reading for ministers and educationists.

Recruitment problems are now limiting the ability of schools, particularly in London, to offer the full range of subjects to the required standard. Pupils at one inner London secondary have been taught by 13 maths teachers in the past 12 months.

Overall vacancy rates, according to the Department for Education and Employment, are less than 1 per cent - although they have risen over the past six years. But the general picture in schools is of a recruitment problem which has grown steadily worse over the past year.

There are also serious shortfalls in applications to initial teacher training - 17 per below an already reduced target set for secondary schools last year. London, not surprisingly, has the biggest problems with the highest vacancy levels in boroughs such as Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth. Some 40 per cent of teachers are expected to leave London in the next five years because they can't afford to stay there.

The research studies, published this week and conducted fr the School Teachers' Review Body, show that recruitment problems are not limited to London. A rural primary received just seven applications, none of which was suitable for short-listing. Two years ago, when a similar post was advertised there were nearly 150 applications.

Elsewhere, the survey discovered an outer London secondary school which had advertised 17 times during the past two years for maths teachers but had managed to find just one appointable candidate.

Particularly worrying were the career plans of four newly qualified teachers at an outer London school. Only one was keen to stay at the school - and that was because its location fitted in with her domestic arrangements. One had handed in her notice, another was planning to leave teaching after one more year and the third wanted to move to another school.

Key complaints in focus groups involving 124 English and Welsh teachers were about pay, workload and limited career opportunities, with newly qualified teachers describing their salaries as demoralising and embarrassing.

A teacher who had been in the profession for 20 years, meanwhile, said that her daughter, after four years as a graduate trainee at Marks and Spencer, already earned more.

Studies were based on an analysis of existing research, as well as focus groups and a sample of 12 authorities and 24 schools.


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