Shortage of teachers 'is the worst for a decade'

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The Independent Online

Local authorities are demanding emergency cash grants for schools to fund recruitment bonuses in response to what headteachers say is the most severe shortage of teachers to hit Britain's schools for a decade.

Local authorities are demanding emergency cash grants for schools to fund recruitment bonuses in response to what headteachers say is the most severe shortage of teachers to hit Britain's schools for a decade.

Unfilled vacancies are running at up to three times the norm for the start of term, leaving thousands of children without a permanent teacher when they return to school this week. Heads and employment agencies warned that children's education could be disrupted because schools will have to rely on short-term supply teachers to fill lessons.

Now local authorities, which employ teachers, are demanding urgent talks with the Government over teachers' pay reform. They are calling for teachers to be promoted faster to stop bright young staff dropping out of the profession and want emergency grants to be paid to schools with the most vacancies to fund special recruitment bonuses for hard-to-fill teaching posts.

Some schools have been forced to go as far as to Australia and New Zealand in the search for teachers, particularly those qualified in shortage subjects such as maths, science and modern languages, leading to fears that classes will be taught by staff without specialist qualifications. Ministers have offered training salaries and "golden hellos" worth £10,000 to attract trainee teachers in shortage subjects.

Last week David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, doubled on-the-job training places in London schools to help fill 1,000 teaching vacancies in the capital. The Government insists that such measures, combined withperformance-related pay up to £30,000, will tempt more people into the classroom.

But last night Graham Lane, chairman of the local authority employers' group, said council leaders would be writing to ministers and the School Teachers' Pay Review Body today, calling for further reform to boost recruitment. He suggested that the schools with the most vacancies should be given special grants so they could offer £700 salary bonuses to help recruit and retain staff.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "This is the worst year in a decade we have experienced in secondary education. It's a real secondary school problem with specialist teachers in maths and modern languages. I think we will see more vacancies in September and more vacancies being filled by supply teachers and more schools using supply agencies than ever before."

David Hart, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "In London alone there are more than 1,000 vacancies and across the country there will be thousands more. There's a pent-up demand for supply teachers because the agencies are out there scouring the land with offers of cash. It has a seriously adverse effect on the education of children because they may have several teachers for the same subject during a year."

Executives at TimePlan, one of the biggest supply agencies, said they were still trying to fill 1,000 vacancies. In most years 200 or 300 posts remain unfilled at the start of September.

A senior government source said training recruitment statistics, due later this year, would show substantial increases, even in shortage subjects. The source said: "We will see for the first time in years there will be an increase in applications for virtually all secondary subjects. We are getting significant evidence that training salaries would have an impact."

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