You can name your price

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
As desperate heads offer fat bonuses to recruits, it seems that teachers now realise that they can drive a hard bargain, report Clare Dean and Amanda Kelly.

SCHOOLS are being forced to offer teachers bonuses of up to pound;5,000 a year each as they adopt increasingly desperate measures to attract staff.

At least 160 jobs advertised in last week's TES offered incentives in the shape of recruitment and retention allowances, prompting fears about wage inflation.

Some schools, like Deincourt secondary in Derbyshire, cannot afford such inducements; others like St Mark's Roman Catholic school in Hounslow, west London, feel they are being blackmailed into offering them.

The bulk of the adverts in The TES offering the allowances are for jobs in London and the South-east.

The Wavell school in Farnborough, Hampshire, has had just one applicant for four posts advertised in the last five weeks. Meanwhile, it has overspent by pound;55,000 on supply teachers. It is now being forced to consider negotiating on salaries.

Education Secretary David Blunkett - who still refuses to admit that the teacher shortage is a crisis - can expect a rough ride today when he addresses the Secondary Heads' Association conference in Newport, Gwent.

Across the country, heads are in despair. Spokey Wheeler, head of the Wavell, is talking about building houses for key workers in the grounds of his 800-pupil school. Mr Wheeler said: "We can't afford them (recruitment allowances) but I have no alternative and even they are not working. It's deeply depressing."

Two years ago a survey by the Government's teachers' pay review body found that less than 2 per cent of classroom teachers nationally and 10 per cent in London received recruitment and retention payments on top of their basic salaries.

Last September schools were allowed to award a recruitment and retention allowance of up to pound;3,765 to classroom teachers. owever, only failing inner-London schools could award the maximum.

But now all heads have been given the power to offer bonus payments of up to pound;5,000 a year.

Heads can also now offer "golden handcuffs" deals to retain staff. The allowances can be carried forward for up to three years and paid to staff in challenging jobs as a pound;15,000 bonus if they last the course.

David Sheath, head of St Mark's school in Hounslow, said applicants were effectively demanding the allowances when coming for interview.

"Even newly-qualified teachers know they are in huge demand and that if we don't give them recruitment points, the school down the road will. It feels as though you're being blackmailed into offering them."

Deincourt, a 400-pupil school for 11 to 16-year-olds near Chesterfield, has a pound;20,000 deficit yet has been forced to offer recruitment points for the first time - it will pay an extra pound;909 for the maths manager it needs for September.

Alun Pelleschi, headteacher, said: "We can't afford it, but my imperative is to make sure that the kids have really excellent teachers in front of them."

Recruitment and retention allowances have been dogged by controversy. Heads have complained that they are divisive and that they do not have enough money in their budgets to pay them.

South Camden community school, London has decided to award two points - worth pound;1,782 - to all of its staff when the new financial year begins rather than leave some feeling under-valued.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This really shows how desperate schools are to get staff into vacant posts."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, added:

"A new teacher in one area will be earning in some cases as much as a subject head or head of year in another. What is really needed is a decent rise in basic salary."

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