My head of maths has gone, I'm two science teachers short of a full lab and my French teacher is on long-term sick leave. Where am I going to find the staff I need?
There, there - don't worry. The Government hears you.
It does? You mean it's managed to solve the recruitment crisis?
Not exactly. But take a look at the growing list of goodies now on offer to woo teachers into the profession. There are pound;6,000 bursaries for PGCE trainees. And pound;4,000 golden hellos for those completing induction and teaching in shortage subjects such as maths, science, modern languages and technology. The Government will pay offthe student loans of newly qualified teachers in the shortage subjects and it has expanded the graduate teacher programme and relaxed pension rules to encourage early retirees back into the profession.
Great! So by 2006 my staffing problems could be over? What can I do in the meantime?
OK, so some argue that this is all just papering over the cracks. Another downside is the potential resentment all these sweeteners could cause among staff who are several years into the job. But the recruitment crisis is driving local education authorities and schools to resort to a range of extra incentives in order to net teachers. These include offering laptops, or a few months extra salary for an early start in June or July, or even travel allowances and help with relocation expenses. In Essex, for example, the package for new teachers includes discounted BUPA care as well as childcare facilities.
What I wouldn't give to be a young teacher again!
But it's not all a bed of roses. Just think of house prices in London and the South East. In Windsor and Maidenhead, high house prices have driven the local authority to consider building accommodation for teachers on school land.
The Government has brought in a pound;250 million starter home initiative to help first-time house-buyers. In Thurrock, some schools offer a mortgage or rent subsidy, priority public housing, and help with removal fees and legal expenses in buying and selling. In Hillingdon, west London, some schools are offering interest-free loans and shared housing for young teachers.
Travel costs are also an issue, especially in London. The Government is considering subsidised travel for London's teachers. In Kensington and Chelsea, primary schools have included a bicycle grant. And if that doesn't keep its teachers fit enough, they also get free entry to the borough's swimming pools.
Can't I woo teachers from overseas?
You could, but ask yourself this. Do you really want to spend your afternoons trying to recruit from Addis Ababa by telephone? The Government has relaxed the rules on the employment of overseas teachers. The main sources of foreign recruits are South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Jamaica.
And if I'm getting really desperate?
You mean like David Wilmot, head of Cams Hill comprehensive in Hampshire? He tried everything - even phoning Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - in an attempt to recruit. In the end, the poor chap resorted to setting up a stall in his local Sainsbury's to try to entice staff. What is it about schools and supermarkets? Last year, Buckinghamshire was considering a scheme to advertise for teachers on the back of Safeway till receipts.
Perhaps schools should consider loyalty cards?
Jest not. At one Islington primary school, the head let two teachers to go on a course at a nearby school, only to find that the other place lured them into its staffroom with offers of more pay.
One school from the London borough of Redbridge advertising recently in The TES offered, along with good transport links and a commitment to inclusive education, "cakes every Friday". But the desperation award has to go to the school that offered the use of the head's Mercedes at the weekend. "It's been the talk of the recruitment fairs," said one recruitment strategy manager.