Too good to lose;Leading Article;Opinion

4th June 1999 at 01:00
THE STAFFING position in schools is confusing. Shortages are reported and some local authorities are putting out general calls for recruits. Students leaving colleges this summer may be pursued by employers rather than having to do all the pursuing. But at the same time some teachers still find it hard to secure employment, especially on a permanent contract. After expensive training and in some cases extensive experience they may be unnecessarily lost to the profession (Letters, page two).

Too many teachers still have to rely on supply jobs. That can affect time spent on probation and the value of the training supposedly given to entrants. It can also make life insecure for teachers in their later 20s, 30s and even older. Local authorities, like other employers, welcome a pool of "supply" labour, but dependence on it is unhealthy for the profession.

There are also stories about teachers taking early retirement and then being offered supply work. Opportunities for younger colleagues are blocked. The universities are familiar with the problem since many of the academics who left early went back part-time and perpetuated the recruitment logjam that has deterred so many able young lecturers and researchers.

From the school shortages of the sixties to the glut of the late seventies, manpower planning has proved difficult. There are few signs that the profession is prepared for the departure of large numbers of the sixties recruits. If the intent of the Millennium Review has not been lost in the squabbling about this year's pay settlement and changes in teachers' conditions, the prospects for the profession over the next 15 or 20 years should be on the agenda. Teachers would be keen to point out that the balance between supply and demand appears to be tilting in their favour again.

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