Many schools still short of staff, says Ofsted chief

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The Independent Online

Many schools are struggling to recruit teachers despite the funding crisis which led to hundreds being sacked this summer, David Bell, the chief inspector of schools, says today.

The head of Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, says there are three problem areas: maths, science and foreign language teachers for secondary schools; struggling schools in difficult circumstances; and schools in London and the South-east, where teachers cannot afford homes.

His comments come despite warnings from teacher trainers that many students are finding it difficult to get a job.

Mr Bell, who warned at the height of concern over staffing shortages last year that standards in some schools could be at risk, told The Independent: "It would be foolish to say that these pressures that we identified have disappeared.

"I think there are schools that can overcome that. I spoke to one Camden head who said that because she was working in London there was quite a responsibility to present the school attractively.

"However, there are headteachers who will also tell you, 'this is not a London problem - we advertised for a head of English and we've only got three or four people responding'." A former failing school had solved its problems once it was removed from the failing schools list and provided with "cracking leadership" by a new head.

"Making the school an attractive place to work in still remains probably the best way of getting people to work there," he added.

Mr Bell said one reason for the difficulty in filling senior posts may be a reluctance by teachers to take on more responsibility. Many might not want to move to new areas of the country. Others were deciding not to apply for headteaching posts. "If you think about the demands of headship, it is a very demanding job." he said. "The accountability rests on their shoulders. I do think the emphasis we're giving to school leadership with the new National College for School Leadership [which opened in Nottingham last year] is a good thing but we may still find that quite a lot of teachers are saying 'maybe headship's not for me'." He said recruits for headship could come from the newly appointed advanced skills teachers who can earn up to £40,000 a year to spread good teaching practice to other schools.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "David Bell is absolutely right. The shortages won't just go away because of the job losses.

"There can't be national control of the situation. The job losses will make absolutely no impact at all on schools that are facing recruitment difficulties. If somebody's made redundant as a foreign languages teacher in one area one day you can't just transport them to somewhere else where there is a shortage the next."

The number of recruits to teacher training in almost every area rose this summer. "The recruitment figures are looking more promising," said Mr Hart, "but that doesn't mean you've got mathematicians, scientists and modern languages teachers that can go into schools and deliver this September."

Mr Bell also said education for those aged 14 to 19 should be "more relevant so you get more and more young people interested in education". But he added: "Maybe the most important way for the Government to invest in secondary education is to invest in SureStart [which provides services such as nursery education for the under-fives]."

He said that if children were captivated by education at an early age they would be better prepared for their studies.

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