Inspectors fail school for chronic teacher shortages

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The Independent Online

A school has been failed by Ofsted inspectors after they found it was "stretched almost to breaking point by staff shortages".

A school has been failed by Ofsted inspectors after they found it was "stretched almost to breaking point by staff shortages".

In a highly critical report, believed to be unprecedented, inspectors said the Heber Primary School in Dulwich, south-east London, "does not have sufficient permanent qualified staff to teach the national curriculum and to meet the additional needs of its pupils".

The report starkly illustrates severe staff shortages faced by schools in London and the South-east and will fuel anger over the ongoing teacher recruitment crisis.

Inspectors found that three classes at the 400-pupil school had no permanent teacher, and only one was covered by a temporary supply teacher during the inspection last year.

Although the Heber Primary had been visited by the inspectors at the end of September, their report was only posted on the internet this month. The report said: "The head teacher and senior staff provide a strong personal lead, setting the tone of commitment to high standards and good behaviour.

"However, much of their energy is consumed by the need to provide day-to-day cover for staff shortages. The head teacher had to teach on a full-time basis throughout the inspection. At one point, however, three classes for seven- to eleven-year-olds did not have a permanent teacher and only one had a supply teacher. Pupils from one class had to be dispersed among other classes, often not from the same age group. Some of these pupils received no teaching.

"This situation seriously limited the support the head teacher could give to colleagues and exacerbated the effect on learning of poor behaviour in some classes."

The report found a significant number of parents were very concerned about the high turnover of teachers. One parent complained to inspectors that her child once had to spend the day drawing when her teacher did not arrive at school.

Inspectors found that teaching was poor in 17 per cent of lessons and criticised the standard of lessons for children aged between seven and eleven.

However, a spokesman for Southwark Council said the shortage of teachers "will have been a critical factor during the inspection". The school was now being run by an acting head teacher, it now had a full compliment of staff and it enjoyed the support of parents, he said.

"Overall they found 83 per cent of teaching was satisfactory. You would have been expecting over 90 per cent if you had a full staff," he said. "There's a shortage and there's a difficulty for some schools. If that happens to coincide with an Ofsted week, it can disadvantage them."

David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said he had never seen a similar case. "I hope this is an indication that Ofsted is prepared to be more realistic about the impact of teacher shortages on standards," he said.

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