£4,000 bonus forteachers to stay at inner-city schools

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The Independent Online

The Government is to spend more than £30m to help struggling schools retain their staff with "golden handcuffs" in the face of a severe shortage of applications for teacher training.

The Government is to spend more than £30m to help struggling schools retain their staff with "golden handcuffs" in the face of a severe shortage of applications for teacher training.

Today, Estelle Morris, the School Standards minister, will tell the North of England Education Conference in Bridlington that 550 inner-city schools will share £32m to help retain their best teachers. Teachers in some schools could receive as much as £4,000 a year extra if their heads want to stop them leaving.

Meanwhile, leaders of the biggest teachers' union have threatened to put more schools on a four-day week by refusing to cover for vacant posts.

Figures from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry show that the number of people applying for one-year post-graduate teacher-training courses is down by 16 per cent compared with the same time last year. Last year, 14,224 people had applied by this stage, compared with 11,935 this year. Maths applications are down by one-third and those for English, not usually a shortage subject, are just 40 per cent of what they were five years ago.

The Government hopes to stave off the deepening crisis in some of the country's worst- performing schools by announcing the golden handcuffs or loyalty bonuses to help them hang on to teachers.

For the next three years, about half of these schools will receive £20,000 and the other half £70,000 for loyalty bonuses, extra staff for difficult pupils or for extra books.

But teachers' unions have said the crisis is not confined to the South-east or struggling schools. Several local authorities have already warned of the possibility of part-time schooling, which has begun for some schools. Recent research from Liverpool University has shown that secondary schools in Yorkshire and the West Midlands are having even more difficulties filling posts than those in London and the South-east. Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "We will certainly be looking at protective action for members where there is a choice for the local authority between four-day weeks and placing teachers in the invidious position of having to cover and teach classes for which they are not trained."

Figures show that acceptance of places on teacher-training courses are also down but experts said that fall was due to changes in the way they were processed.

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "These figures are extremely worrying and suggest that the crisis in teacher recruitment is going to get much worse before it gets better."

A Department for Education and Employment spokesman said: "We acknowledge that many posts are difficult to fill. This is due to a historical decline in teacher recruitment between 1992 and 1999."

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