Desperate heads forced to hire unqualified staff

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Schools are using growing numbers of unqualified teachers to try to fill vacancies created by the recruitment crisis, secondary heads warn today.

Schools are using growing numbers of unqualified teachers to try to fill vacancies created by the recruitment crisis, secondary heads warn today.

In Essex alone, 67 teachers without a teaching qualification are in post in 61 secondary schools, a study for the Secondary Heads Association shows.

The shortage of teachers in inner London is so severe unqualified staff are taking on middle management posts with responsibility for subjects such as drama and design and technology. The unqualified staff include British and foreign graduates, students who are between jobs and people considering a teaching career.

Schools are allowed to employ unqualified teachers but only temporarily. The heads' association said staff shortages were threatening education standards. Its findings, from a series of country-wide conferences in the past two months, show the crisis is no longer confined to the long-term shortage subjects of maths, science and modern languages.

Schools are also reporting difficulties in finding heads of English departments. Heads say: "The additional responsibility and stress of being a head of department when the subject does not have a full complement of qualified teachers, is not attractive."

While inner-city comprehensives continue to be badly affected, even grammar schools and those in rural counties are facing shortages.

A grammar school, a high-flying sixth form college and a school in a desirable part of Devon are searching desperately for teachers to head their English departments.

One school in the East Midlands has had to stop teaching modern languages, compulsory under the national curriculum, because it cannot find French or German teachers.

Heads say parents are becoming increasingly restive They are complaining about shortages and phoning the school when they hear a teacher is leaving.

John Dunford, the association's general secretary, says: "The teacher supply crisis is having a substantial effect on the education of thousands of pupils in secondary schools. Shortages exist across the country.

"The extent to which schools are using unqualified teachers demonstrates the seriousness of the situation and supply teacher agencies have become the biggest growth area in education." Agencies have increased their charges to local education authorities by about 20 per cent, the survey shows.

Mr Dunford welcomes signs that the Government is beginning to wake up to the extent of the crisis but says it still needs to pay teachers more, give them better conditions of service and cut back "the torrent of initiatives".

He added: "Progress is being made in recruiting teachers but, to recruit the brightest and best young graduates, a higher training salary or repayment of student loans, or both, will have to be paid to those who undertake to teach for a minimum of four years."

Ministers point out that the number of teachers recruited for training this year is up for the first time for eight years after the introduction of training salaries.

They also believe thatperformance-related pay, which will enable the best classroom teachers to earn up to £35,000, will bring in recruits.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said schools were responsible for ensuring they selected suitable teachers.

* The National Union of Teachers said yesterday that 1,400 new teachers have been lost to the profession this year. A survey of more than one-third of local education authorities and one-quarter of newly qualified teachers shows 7 per cent of this year's intake dropped out.

The union says the figures conflict with the Government's, which suggest that fewer than 1 per cent leave. New teachers were more likely to leave if they were in badly resourced local education authorities.