Independent schools 'struggling to fill vacancies'

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The Independent Online

Leading schools such as Roedean and Cheltenham Ladies' College are finding it harder to recruit staff and are having to readvertise to fill vacancies, a survey reveals today.

Leading schools such as Roedean and Cheltenham Ladies' College are finding it harder to recruit staff and are having to readvertise to fill vacancies, a survey reveals today.

The poll of more than 800 state and independent secondary schools also revealed that headteachers believed one in five of the appointments they had made for the new term were "unsatisfactory".

More than half of these appointments were staff not qualified in the subject they were teaching. Subject areas most likely to have unqualified staff included maths and information technology. Leading independent schools were among those voicing concern about a drop in the number of applicants.

Cheltenham Ladies' College, where fees are £17,300 a year for boarders, said it had readvertised for some posts. Vicky Tuck, the principal, said she had made some of her best appointments this year but had been forced to readvertise. "You have to hold your nerve," she added. "The important thing is not to compromise and to readvertise if necessary. I am just glad I didn't go for the best of the rest."

Patricia Metham, head teacher of Roedean in Brighton, with boarding fees of £17,925 a year, said: "Retention is the real issue. There is a real issue of morale – legislation increasingly seems to assume teachers are not capable of being independent professionals."

The surveyby The Times Educational Supplement and the Secondary Heads Association revealed that there were likely to be fewer vacancies overall at the start of this term compared with last year (3,769 compared with 4,926).

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "For the second year in succession secondary heads have been forced to make many appointments with which they are not happy."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said it was better to wait for the real figures. "There are over 20,000 more teachers than in 1997," he said. "Targeted recruitment policies are getting more teachers into schools." Its official count in January had found 2,450 vacancies.

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