GROWING numbers of young teachers are quitting the profession because they think schools are becoming results factories, where heads insist targets are met regardless of the human cost.
Early evidence from a wide-ranging recruitment survey by Liverpool University academics, obtained by The TES, shows teachers in their 20s and early 30s are being driven out because they feel pressured by senior staff and disillusioned by pupils' bad behaviour.
Teachers complained of a new style of aggressive but detached management. Senior staff, they said, were obsessed with targets but unwilling to support teachers' daily work.
The findings come as ministers brace themselves for an expected record number of vacancies at the start of next term in both primary and secondary schools.
The Liverpool research, by Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson, was commissioned by the National Union of Teachers.
The Government has always maintained that there is no evidence that younger teachers are leaving and claims that the number of retirements remains steady. But the study - which looks at a random selection of 170 primaries and 170 secondaries across England - suggests otherwise.
The researchers have found that teachers are not only leaving because of workload but also because of loutish pupil behaviour. Some are going to independent schools where pupils are easier to control.
Professor Smithers is also analysing figures from the Teacher Training Agency which suggest 30 per cent of students on teacher training courses drop out.
A government website for managers admits poor leadership is the main reason that teachers quit. "When asked ... most teachers said they left a school because they were unhappy with management," the "A-Z of School Management" site says.
The site suggests heads desperate to fill posts should contact local further education colleges, or even private schools, to share staff on a temporary basis.
TES enquiries this week revealed at least five local authorities whose schools had more than 100 vacancies as the summer term ended.
Surrey reported 386 vacant posts at the end of June, Sheffield 320 and Hillingdon, west London, 240. Kent was advertising 164 posts on its website last week; West Sussex had 133 secondary posts unfilled.
However, the frantic search for staff may be paying off. Since September supply agency TimePlan has made 30 trips overseas, in partnership with councils, bringing back 1,000 teachers from countries such as Australia and South Africa. But recruitment expert John Howson predicts that thousands of science and maths posts will be unfilled this September.
Professor Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, is also calling on ministers to make more primary postgraduate training places available to avoid a repetition of this summer's scramble to fill posts.
Primary places were cut from 13,100 to 12,500 for this September because of falling pupil rolls.
This week Professor Smithers would say only that his research was "in its very early stages". "We shall be delivering the report to the NUT at the end of August," he said.
Bob Carstairs, assistant general secretary of the Secondary Heads Assocation, said: "Managers sympathise with teachers' workloads, but with an initiative a day, it leaves them struggling to offer them suitable help."
A Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman said: "The national vacancy rate is around 1.4 per cent, but some schools are finding it hard to recruit and retain teachers. With a buoyant graduate market, the fact that we have more than 12,000 extra teachers in the classroom than in 1997 is a sign of success - but not a cause for complacency."
Leader, 16 Science and maths shortfall, 23