What vacancies? asks head

21st September 2001 at 01:00
The recruitment crisis must seem like a myth to the 10,000 out-of-work teachers but is all too real to heads who are running out of cash

Amand Dewaele is sceptical about the recruitment crisis in teaching.

The former head of a school in Belgium has applied for 44 teaching jobs this year. He has not had a single interview.

The 47-year-old, who lives in Lancaster, is just one of 10,000 teaching staff shown to be out of work by the latest Labour Force Survey, a startling statistic given that there were thousands of vacancies at schools at the start of this term.

But while the shortages are acute in areas such as the South-east, in many of the English regions and parts of Wales, teachers still have problems finding work.

Amand, who has a degree in biology, taught for 24 years in Belgium and worked as a head for 12 years. Fluent in English, French and Dutch, he has taught biology, chemistry, physics and maths and run a centre for part-time education in Ostend.

When he moved to Britain last year with his English wife Emma he thought he would have a job.

But six months later he realises how mistaken he was. He is currently doing part-time consultancy work for Manchester Metropolitan University.

A Lancashire County Council spokesman said that all of the county's vacant posts were filled by September 1.

"There were shortages in some areas in which we used short-term or supply teachers. Lancashire is seen as an attractive place to teach.

"It is also the case that the cost of living is lower than in many other places."

Kathryn Mayo from Cambridgeshire is another of the jobless teachers. She is a middle-school-trained science specialist with two years' teaching experience at a special needs school.

"Why is it that despite the teacher shortage, I cannot find any supply or temporary work placements in Peterborough or Cambridgeshire?" she asked.

The Labour Force Survey, by the Government's Office for National Statistics, reveals 10,000 people who last worked as teachers in schools, colleges and universities, were out of work this summer.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of Liverpool University's Centre for Education and Employment Research, said the pattern for teacher employment varied considerably across the country.

"In areas such as Cheshire or Wales there are fewer vacancies. You may have teachers who do not feel able to move to get a job because of their spouse. They sometimes find that local schools are fully staffed. Teacher vacancies are very unevenly distributed across the country."

He believes age is also a factor - older teachers may be less able to move to find work.

Graham Lane, education chairman of the Local Government Association, said he would commission research into the scale of ageism in schools.

"If teachers are in their forties or early fifties some schools think they can only get 10 years out of them. My view is, so what if you are short of teachers?"

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