Teacher talk

26th January 2001 at 00:00
Roger Butterfield's tale (far right) is a cautionary one for those trying to recruit and hang on to teachers. We examine their tactics and the state of the staffing crisis

TEACHERS flocking out of South Africa to prop up London's under-staffed schools are escaping even worse conditions in their home country, writes Warwick Mansell.

That, at least, is the verdict of many of the batch of 30 Springbok recruits flown in to work in Newham, east London.

Unlike backpackers from Australia and New Zealand who have long filled gaps in Britain's schools, the South Africans are fleeing poor conditions and pay.

Another factor has been the equalisation of class sizes in black and white schools, which has been unpopular with some.

Brandon Solomon, right, 31, a new recruit to Eastlea community school, Canning Town, said he planned to settle in Britain because he would have a better standard of living.

Back home in Cape Town, his wages as a secondary humanities teacher were around pound;400 a month, with rent and petrol eating up "90 per cent" of his salary.

Greg Morrell, right , 26, teaching Year 6 pupils at Essex primary, Manor Park, left the Eastrn Cape with wife Caryn, because he wanted to further his career. His ambition is to become a headteacher.

But a big part of the decision was financial. Greg's wage of around pound;380 a month in South Africa was roughly comparable to his weekly supply rate in England.

Yet it was actually cheaper to live in London.

He said : "We had no money left to put towards, for example, buying a house. We were struggling to make ends meet. At least here, we will be able to save something."

Sheldon Phillips, 26 and teaching at Manor primary, West Ham, said: "The main reason many people are here is financial. There's beautiful weather, and nice people in South Africa. But there's no opportunity in terms of careers.

"I've been working in schools for four years, but still have no permanent contract, pension, or right to medical care. There comes a time when you have to say enough is enough."

The South African teachers, on around pound;400 a week, have been appointed in partnership with supply agency Timeplan, which paid for Newham heads to fly out on a recruitment mission to Cape Town. The agency has similar arrangements with 10 other authorities.

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