Young staff hold desperate heads to ransom

Remember when new teachers were grateful to those who gave them their first job? These days the offer of a post marks the start of some hard bargaining - and it's the employees who are calling the shots.

NEW teachers are playing the market during the recruitment crisis and squeezing extra pay and perks out of schools.

Heads say they are being "blackmailed" into offering incentives to young teachers. A bidding war is raging as they scramble to offer annual bonuses of up to pound;5,000, travel costs and housing subsidies to lure new teachers and to stop other schools poaching their staff.

Some teachers are being awarded pay rises simply because they mention that they are going for an interview at a neighbouring school.

In Bedfordshire, the battle for staff has become so intense that heads have reached a "no-poaching" agreement. Roger Owen, chairman of the county's Upper Schools' association, said: "If staff apply for an advertised job then that is one thing, but we have agreed that we will not actively approach each other's staff, which is what is going on in other counties.

"We do not see poaching each other's staff as a productive solution."

A grammar school in the South-east complained it had just had two teachers poached. Its head said: "One was offered a job over the phone, while the other was asked to apply for a position at the school down the road. They even changed the job specification to lure that teacher away."

A head in Buckinghamshire revealed it was becoming common for staff to receive telephone calls during lunch breaks from rival heads inviting them to apply for positions.

At one Worcestershire school, not even the offer of laptop computers for all teachers is enough.

Its head said: "We are only four or five miles outside of Birmingham, where schools receive pound;500,000 more than us and regularly approach our staff, offering them two or three extra points and we cannot compete.

"I recently lost my data manager and head of physics because Birmingham schools bribed them by creating senior posts for them."

Heads said teachers were now demanding allowances, worth up to pound;5,000, at interview.

David Sheath, head of St Mark's school in Hounslow, said: "Even newly-qualified teachers know they are in demand and that if we don't give them recruitment points, the school down the road will. We are practically being blackmailed into offering them."

An NQT demanded a starting salary of pound;24,843 from a West Midlands grammar school. "He didn't get it, but it might not be too long before schools are so desperate they'll cave in," said the head.

The head of a comprehensive in the South-east said he had been forced to pay three teachers more to prevent them leaving before the new term started. "There is a lot of rough justice in this. A teacher who hasn't adopted these tactics will be earning less simply because they haven't resorted to this sort of blackmail," he said.

Two years ago a survey by the 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.

Until this year schools could award a recruitment and retention allowance of up to pound;3,765 to mainscale teachers, but only failing inner-London schools could award the maximum.

Now all heads can offer bonus payments of up to pound;5,000 a year.

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

A London school said staff were now making demands for help towards the cost of their rent, while a Bedfordshire head said she was contributing towards one teacher's travel costs. She said: "It's not quite like being held over a barrel, but it's not far off it."

Leader, 18

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