Lack of teachers harming education, Ofsted reports

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The Independent Online

Failure to recruit enough teachers is lowering the standard of education in schools and the problem is getting worse, Ofsted, the Government's education standards watchdog, said yesterday.

Failure to recruit enough teachers is lowering the standard of education in schools and the problem is getting worse, Ofsted, the Government's education standards watchdog, said yesterday.

In the first major report to be published since the new chief schools inspector David Bell took office last month, inspectors said recruitment difficulties were increasing.

A survey of 17 education authorities revealed two thirds had growing problems in recruiting and keeping teachers, even for infant and nursery classes. It said the main problem was the quality of staff, with some boroughs saying history was the only subject where there were no difficulties.

"Many of the authorities conjecture that the problems faced by schools have yet to reach a peak and even more difficulties have yet to be faced," it added. "Schools are making more and more use of supply teachers or overseas teachers and teachers on temporary contracts. Many are at least adequately qualified and suitably deployed, but the need to resort to temporary or acting arrangements is proving disruptive for schools and for children's education."

Staff recruited as graduate trainees were being put in classes as unqualified teachers and many of the overseas teachers did not have much knowledge of the national curriculum. One authority had been forced to recruit more than 100 overseas teachers, 87 from South Africa, 20 from Jamaica and 15 from the United States.

The former chief schools inspector Mike Tomlinson had ordered inspectors to look at the impact of teaching shortages in their reports from last September. Yesterday's report is the first indication from Ofsted of how the problem is progressing. It also revealed some authorities were having to restrict the admission of children under five to schools because of shortages of nursery and reception class teachers.

"Even after readvertising there are often so few applicants in some schools for senior and middle-management posts that schools are ending up appointing candidates not ready for promotion," it added. Research showed teacher vacancies last year had shot up from 2,110 to 4,980.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said there were 9,400 more teachers in schools this January compared with 2001. "The ... teacher vacancy rate [is] down from 1.4 per cent in 2001 to 1.2 per cent now."

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