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Teacher vacancies have more than doubled since September, a TES/Secondary Heads Association survey has revealed. It...
Teacher vacancies have more than doubled since September, a TES/Secondary Heads Association survey has revealed. It suggests there could be nearly 10,000 permanent jobs unfilled in secondary schools in England and Wales.
Supply agencies admit they are unable to provide cover for at least 20,000 teacher days a week, and headteachers warned of increasing numbers of exclusions as pupils' behaviour deteriorates.
Standards of teaching are falling, sickness levels are rising and parents are complaining about inconsistency of teaching and children's lack of progress, said heads.
Their comments came as industrial action by unions, in protest at escalating workloads, due to shortages, threatened to send pupils home from 1,000 schools.
Education secretary David Blunkett this week acknowledged the problem facing the nation's schools in an interview with The TES, but he refused to call it a crisis.
'The word crisis is the kind of word you use when you have foot and mouth disease destroying an industry,' he said. 'It is not a word that you use when you want to resolve a problem by recruiting or bringing back more professionals. There is a problem, but it is something we acknowledge and take on.'
A survey by the Department for Education and Employment of 1,453 schools in England suggests that 0.5% of the primary and 0.8% of secondary posts were vacant last month, an increase in secondaries of 14% on last year's DfEE survey. Advertisements in The TES today are at least 50% above the expected levels for this time of the year.
Evidence collected by The TES and SHA from almost a quarter of secondaries in England and Wales discloses there were 2,410 vacancies for permanent teachers last month.
If this represents the position in all 3,800 secondaries, it would mean 9,969 unfilled posts. A similar TES/SHA survey last September concluded 4,000 posts were unfilled.
Difficulties continue to be concentrated in London and the South-east, but the situation seems to be getting worse in the Midlands and the North-east.
One in 25 of the secondaries which replied to the survey had seven or more vacancies. Three schools had 13.
John Dunford, general secretary of SHA, said: 'Emergency measures are required to help schools and supply teacher agencies to bring more qualified teachers into the classroom.'
Recruitment analyst John Howson was shocked at the findings. 'This means many key stage 3 pupils are being taught in large classes by teachers who are not properly qualified.'
The TES/SHA survey reveals that heads are often taking several classes themselves to fill gaps. Few heads are willing to admit to sending pupils home. But four had done so without attracting media attention. Others said they were now close to it.
Bill Gould, head of the 1,100-pupil Hellesdon high school in Norwich, which sent a year group home for the morning before half-term, said: 'There have been a number of occasions where there has not been a single member of staff not in front of a class. You just need a child to have an accident and you have no reserves at all.'
Clare Dean, Warwick Mansell, Karen Thornton
Region Response rate to survey Number of vacancies reported Average vacancies per reply Vacancies implied for area
North-east 27% 149 2.4 559
North-west 20% 231 2.3 1,130
Yorkshire & Humber 15% 130 2.3 876
East Midlands 26% 249 2.8 943
West Midlands 27% 288 2.5 1,076
East of England 10% 108 2.6 1,135
Inner London 18% 134 5.6 737
Outer London 40% 438 4.0 1,097
South-east 33% 506 3.0 1,535
South-west 21% 129 1.8 609
England 24% 2,362 2.8 9,694
Wales 17% 48 1.2 275
Source: TES/SHA survey of vacancies in January 2001 is based on responses from 876 secondary schools in England and Wales. Private schools and sixth-form colleges, who responded, were not included in the totals.
Britain's beleaguered secondary headteachers, struggling to cope with staff shortages, are plugging the gaps any which way they can.
And as desperate times call for desperate measures a secondary modern in the South-east, short of three teachers, and facing an inspection, is looking to 'borrow' staff from other schools.
Elsewhere in the country, GCSE courses have been cancelled, and exam classes are taking place in lunchtime and after school, as timetables are torn up and rewritten.
Many heads are now back in the classroom themselves and, along with other senior managers, often supervise several lessons at once as classes are doubled up.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: 'This illustrates the super-human efforts of heads and senior managers to keep schools running.
'But the lack of qualified teachers has clearly reached the stage where it is affecting the quality of education and must put at risk the Government's improvement agenda.'
Heads in the survey said pupil behaviour was deteriorating and complained about both the quality and quantity of supply staff amid warnings that standards will inevitably suffer. Morale is low, goodwill is fading fast and increasing numbers of teachers are taking sick leave as stress levels and workloads soar.
In-service training is being abandoned or restricted, school improvements shelved and parents are now complaining about lack of continuity and progress.
The TES/SHA survey of 876 secondaries last month identifies 2,410 teacher vacancies in England and Wales. If this was typical of all 3,800 secondaries it would mean they need to fill almost 10,000 posts.
Heads are adopting a number of coping strategies - awarding temporary contracts, switching teachers between subjects, using unqualified part-timers and even employing unqualified staff.
Biologists are teaching maths, technicians are taking technology lessons and at a south-eastern comprehensive a geography teacher is taking French and German studies -in English.
Ministers claim that 99% of teacher posts in England - and 98 per cent in London - were filled last month with either temporary or permanent staff.
What that means in practice is that at a comprehensive in the North-west, 210 lessons a week are being 'taught' by temporary supply teachers. According to the headteacher: 'Poor behaviour develops with temporary staff and this carries on into other lessons placing a burden on permanent staff.'
At a Leeds comprehensive, a number of pupils have not had a permanent teacher in technology since October 1999, in RE for nine months and in English since September 2000.
Meanwhile, at a north-eastern comp, some pupils rarely have a lesson with their timetabled teacher, even where he or she exists. GCSE pupils at one school in the North-west have had five science teachers for key stage 4.
The head of a comprehensive in the South-east said: 'Patching and making do has become the order of the day.' His school is short of eight teachers, including three English specialists.
Another comprehensive in the region was forced to ask 30 pupils to give up a GCSE part way through the course because it had no teacher.
The crisis is not just hitting state schools. A private school in the South-east has been unable to fulfil its requirement to appoint a Catholic head of RE. None of the four Catholics it interviewed was suitable. It has now appointed a non-Catholic.
Another private school in the south-east cannot find either a classics or an ICT teacher.
'Pay and conditions are generally better than offered in the maintained sector but we do not even get applicants, let alone good applicants, for a number of posts,' said the head.
English 413 Music 84
Maths 383 Business Studies 82
Science 375 PE 73
Technology 254 Geography 59
Languages 252 History 55
ICT 110 Art 51
Religious education 97 Drama 23
Special educational needs 94 Dance 5
TOTAL 2,410
Source: TES/SHA survey of vacancies in January 2001 is based on responses from 876 secondary schools in England and Wales. Private schools and sixth-form colleges, who responded, were not included in the totals.
Official denials only add insult to injury
Deputy head Paul Kubicki has had to cover three classes at once in the great hall of the City of Lincoln College because of teacher shortages.
He also had to rewrite the timetable last summer because a permanent maths teacher could not be found, despite advertising five times.
Mr. Kubicki said: 'The teacher shortage has so many knock-on effects. It is detrimental to school discipline as temporary and inexperienced staff have difficulties that senior staff have to cope with. They are worn out with the increased pressure, as are teachers who lose their free periods covering for absent colleagues. The grind makes us all bad-tempered.
'It might not be a total disaster but if you are forever chasing your tail, you can't look to the future.'
Despite the draw of an increasingly popular school in a city which is cheap to live in, only onelinguist applied for a recent vacancy. At the time of the survey, the school had six posts unfilled.
Mr Kubicki said: 'We have fantastic staff who are prepared to go the extra mile but it cannot continue indefinitely. And it is virtually impossible to get supply teachers with any degree of regularity.'
The school is advertising now for posts that will become available in September to avoid a last minute scramble. Ministers' denials of a crisis have added insult to injury.
'The Government's recruitment policy could make a difference five or six years down the line but there is a national recruitment crisis now,' said Mr. Kubicki.
Julie Henry
Supply agencies unable to fill gaps
AT least 20,000 temporary vacancies in schools in England and Wales are unfilled every week because of a dearth of supply staff, recruitment agencies admitted this week.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation said the figure was a conservative estimate of the number of supply days each week that agencies are unable to cover for teachers either sick or on training days.
Bob Wicks, chief executive of Select Education and chairman of the confederation's education division, admitted that his own company was missing out on 2,400 potential bookings every week because of the shortages. Select, which finds supply teachers for 12,000 positions each week, could boost its business by 20% if it could recruit more staff.
The confederation is now surveying all of its members and Mr. Wicks said: 'Contrary to what the government says, there is a very serious shortage of teachers.
'God only knows what would have happened if the country had had a serious bout of flu this year. Huge numbers of schools would have closed because of the difficulties of finding staff to fill the gaps.'
But new figures suggest that government initiatives may have contributed to the problem by increasing schools' demand for staff.
The number of supply teachers working on contracts of one month or less has risen by a third, from 12,600 to 16,700 between 1996 and 2000, school standards minister Estelle Morris revealed in a written parliamentary question.
Headteachers are now scouring the world for recruits, often interviewing and appointing by the telephone or via the internet without having met the applicant.
One desperate comprehensive in the East Midlands, which has seven vacancies, is paying half of the air fare for a Canadian teacher to come to the UK.
Others have extended the global search from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to Mauritius, Jamaica and Japan.
The head of a comprehensive in the South-east, looking to fill four vacancies, has arranged bed-and- breakfast for supply teachers and has even offered to accommodate a teacher herself.
'Supply staff have vanished,' said the head of a comprehensive in North Yorkshire and the Humber. 'I have stopped looking for someone good. I'm looking for someone (fairly) warm and (fairly) vertical.'
Heads responding to the TES/SHA survey were often critical of the calibre of supply staff, complaining of low expectations and poor classroom control.
Where there was praise for supply staff, it was usually coupled with complaints about the cost and the high level of turnover which created instability for pupils.
But said John Fairhurst, head of Shenfield High, Brentwood, Essex: 'Agency staff from Australia have been good quality - but the turnover is rapid and the sense of instability is not good for the children.'
Warwick Mansell and Clare Dean
David Blunkett says that it doesn't help to call it a crisis. The following are comments from the TES/Secondary Heads Association survey of vacancies last month.
'The recruitment position is worsening by the month. Maternity leave and temporary vacancies are becoming a nightmare to fill, not least because there are so many opportunities now to work on a casual basis for supply agencies without having to mark or prepare lessons.'
Kevin McAleese, Harrogate Grammar, Harrogate.
'One more staff vacancy or illness with no supply and we shall start to send children home. We increasingly have no spare staff - everybody including the head is in front of a class.'
Bill Gould, Hellesdon High, Norwich.
'We'll reach meltdown unless a miracle happens by September. Schools in challenging circumstances find themselves on a less than even playing field. We are still in the changing room while everyone else has kicked off. We are back of the queue for aspiring teachers who can earn the same in less challenging schools.'
Judith Mullen, head of New College, Leicester and former SHA President.
'Only the commitment and dedication of my present staff is keeping us afloat.'
Dr David Howard, Ferndown Upper School, Ferndown, Dorset.
'I had become accustomed to difficulties in recruiting teachers for maths, science, modern languages and technology. It came as a shock when I advertised twice for an English teacher and had no replies. And this is a nice girls' school in a leafy suburb of London.'
Mary Waplington, head of Sacred Heart High, Wealdstone, Harrow. 'Don't even let me hear Estelle Morris say again 'there's not a crisis,' Come and spend a week in Kent.'
Margaret Harriott, The Malling School, Maidstone.
Taken from the Times Educational Supplement, 2 March 2001
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