Teacher crisis masked by heads

4 Jan 01
The government has denied that schools around the country are suffering from teacher 'famine'

05 January 2001

The government has denied that schools around the country are suffering from teacher 'famine'.

Fighting a rearguard action against adverse publicity from teaching professionals, officials pointed out that there were 6,900 more teachers in post than two years ago.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment denied that the number of schools forced into a four-day week was increasing because of a recruitment crisis, saying 99% of teaching posts across England were filled. He said: 'We are working closely with schools and local education authorities to offer practical help.'

A survey from the Secondary Heads Association published at the end of last year suggested many schools had to take on unqualified staff to stem the teacher vacancy crisis. With supply teacher agencies becoming the biggest growth area in education, charges to local education authorities have increased by 20%.

SHA head John Dunford said the government was beginning to recognise the crisis, but he warned that teachers needed better pay and conditions of service. He also warned the government to rein in 'the torrent of initiatives'.

The survey's authors, Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson, accused the government of downplaying the crisis. The result would be large numbers of schools forced into implementing a four-day week. 'There hasn't been slack in the system for some time in terms of getting a well-qualified teacher into the classroom. Headteachers have masked the problem by hiring temporary or unqualified staff, recruiting teachers from abroad and rearranging timetables.'

A separate survey from the National Union of Teachers suggested that up to 1,400 young people who had qualified as teachers decided this year not to enter the profession. General secretary Doug McAvoy said the survey found a drop-out rate of 7% among newly qualified teachers compared to government figures of 0.1%.

However, the DfEE is unperturbed. Disputing the findings of the NUT, officials have pointed out that the numbers of teachers recruited for training this year is up for the first time in eight years after the introduction of training salaries. The government is also committed to making housing more affordable for newly trained teachers.


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