Teacher crisis puts pupils on four-day week

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The Independent Online

Teacher shortages turned into a political battlefield last night after a second school within a month announced it was putting its pupils on a four-day week.

Teacher shortages turned into a political battlefield last night after a second school within a month announced it was putting its pupils on a four-day week.

Estelle Morris, a Schools minister, promised help in finding teachers for Corby Community College in Northamptonshire, but Conservatives said government interference and bureaucracy were putting off prospective teachers.

Most schools are struggling to recruit teachers but failing schools and those in the inner cities are hardest hit. Corby, a Government Fresh Start school that opened three weeks ago to replace two failing schools, is seven teachers short.

Beechwood School in Slough, which came off the failing list two years ago, said last month it was introducing a four-day week because of teacher shortages. Forty-two per cent of its pupils have special educational needs. Last night, Slough Borough Council said the first year and the GCSE year were back at school five days a week but the rest of the 580 pupils were attending for only four days.

At Corby, students are to study at home one day a week and parents are being given guidance how to help them. The school will be open five days a week and year groups will take turns to have a day off.

Theresa May, the shadow Education Secretary, said: "This is just the tip of the iceberg. How many more schools will be forced to open four days a week and when will David Blunkett wake up to the impact his ill-thought-out policies are having on teachers?"

Ms Morris said: "It is always difficult for a school in a situation such as this to recruit staff and we will offer every practical assistance." Training salaries for teachers had been introduced, she added, and there had been an increase of 50 per cent in graduate applications.

Katherine Brignano, whose daughter Sarah is studying for GCSEs at Corby, said: "I think it is absolutely disgusting. Parents are told to help their children with work but times have changed since I went to school and I don't know what to do."

Jenny James, the school's head, said: "We can only apologise to parents and students. The harsh reality is that there is no other option available."

The seven unfilled posts are in maths, music, information and computer technology, foreign languages and arts.

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