The exodus comes in spite of a huge take-up of the Government's pound;2,000 performance pay offer. The Department for Education and Employment will announce today that 197,000 teachers applied to cross the threshold - 78.8 per cent of the 250,000 eligible. School standards minister Estelle Morris called it a "very good" response.
Many of those leaving their jobs are in schools which have been under criticism by the Office for Standards in Education.
This week the entire staff of 12 teachers at Moor Lane junior in south-west London announced they would be quitting after a critical inspection report.
Almost half the 48 staff of Kings Wood high, a Fresh Start school in Hull, have left. However, the local authority said most had new jobs or were leaving for family reasons. Around half the staff at St George's RC school in west London, the former school of murdered head Philip Lawrence, are also leaving.
Not all are at schools in difficulty. Some 22 teachers have quit since Christmas at Ryde high school on the Isle of Wight which
has just gained language college status. Head Linda McGowan
said it was a "coincidence", and added most were staying in teaching.
But teachers' leaders say staf are quitting or switching to part-time work to "get a life back".
Official figures for the last year available, 1998, showed numbers leaving the profession for other jobs grew by 1,000 to 15,500, after several years' decline. Figures for 1999 are expected to be higher as an increasing proportion of the profession reaches 50. Two out of three of those leaving in 1998 were over 50.
Teacher-supply agencies say the resignations have prompted a surge in demand which they cannot meet. They say rising numbers of teachers are signing up after quitting full-time jobs because they want to be able to teach without dealing with red tape.
The previous government att-empted to close off the traditional escape route, early retirement. But some staff are resigning instead, forgoing part of their pensions.
Mick Brookes, president of the National Association of Head Teachers, said:
"People are saying enough is enough. Unless the support is put in and the pressure taken off, this will be an increasing trend."
TimePlan, a supply agency, reported 1,000 vacancies in London, the Home Counties and west Midlands compared with 400 a year ago. TimePlan chairman Ian Penman said: "This is about twice as bad as any time in the past five years. We can expect a crushing shortage in January, when other factors come into play, like high absence due to illness."