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'Wild-west' state in poaching row

GERMANY

A RECRUITMENT war has broken out as west German states start to panic over a severe shortage of teachers.

The wake-up call, which follows years of complacency and cost-cutting, came when the state of Hesse launched an aggressive recruitment campaign last month. It has recruited 2,000 teachers in two years and will hire another 1,000 this year.

Neighbouring North-Rhine Westfalia's education minister, Gabriele Behler, accused Hesse of using "wild-west methods" to lure teachers with higher salaries. Both states had to close classes last year for lack of staff. Other lAnder (state parliaments) also cried foul, saying their teachers were being "poached", even though they were unemployed.

At a meeting of state education ministers last month, the 15 other lAnder baned teachers on temporary contracts (ie non-civil servants) from applying for jobs in Hesse.

They are guarding unemployed teachers they have trained, because, with an ageing teaching population, vacancies are expected to rise by more than 50 per cent in three years.

Ministers were incensed at Hesse's hot-line for young teachers, plus attractive offers such as allowing recruits to begin work at any time.

Hesse is also offering full civil-service status to experienced teachers from the former east whose salaries are lower and whose qualifications are not recognised as equivalent to those in the west.

For years the government was intent on dissuading people from entering teaching. Many students were forced to switch degrees to avoid near-certain unemployment.

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