Local education authorities and headteachers in Britain are being forced to search for a growing number of recruits in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand to cope with the worst teacher shortages for a decade.
About 10,000 have been lured to Britain in the past year and at least five headhunting parties from London LEAs are now trawling the southern hemisphere. A delegation from Lewisham is in Sydney and groups from Waltham Forest are in Melbourne; recruiters from Harrow are seeking staff in Auckland, New Zealand, while
Tower Hamlets and Newham are looking in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Such is their success that government ministers, union leaders and headteachers are accusing Britain of exporting its teaching crisis. John Aquilina, the New South Wales education minister, said: 'Our message to the British education authorities would be,'Get your tanks off our lawn.' We're experiencing shortages ourselves in
maths and science.'
The South African education minister Kader Asmal called on Britain to stop luring the country's best-qualified teachers with offers of up to four times their current pay. 'Such raids on the teaching profession at a critical time in our history are not helpful for the development of education in South Africa,' he said.
Teaching shortages are also biting in New Zealand, and are expected to get worse. Education minister Trevor Mallard said: 'The fact that teachers are lured to the UK has the potential to exacerbate the teacher shortage here.'
Despite the foreign influx, schools are estimated still to have 4,000 vacancies. The newcomers face the biggest classes in English secondary schools for over a decade. Teachers may begin industrial action this week in protest at the burden of extra duties they are forced to take on because of the shortages. Unions have called
ballots in more than 40 areas and the first results will be called within days.
Australia and New Zealand may fight the exodus. 'Two can play at this game,' said Mr Aquilina. 'If we need to, we could retaliate. In the 1970s we had a hugely successful campaign with the slogan 'Teaching in the sun' and a poster of a teacher wearing swimming trunks and a mortarboard.'
...WHILE GOVERNMENT ADVERTISES EUROPEAN TEACHING JOBS
The government is spending taxpayers' money to encourage teachers into lucrative posts abroad, despite a chronic shortage in Britain, reported The Mail on Sunday (p15).
The jobs - at schools for English-speaking children of EU workers across Europe - pay substantially more than positions in this country. The vacancies, with salaries ranging from£22,240 to£49,445 plus tax-free living allowances, are at two primary and 11 secondary schools. Most are for mathematics and science teachers, the
areas suffering the worst shortages in Britain.
The posts, which start in September in Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy, are being advertised by the DfEE in newspapers and the professional press. Applicants need to be 'suitably qualified' teachers with a degree and at least five years' experience. They must also speak a foreign language.
A National Union of Teachers spokeswoman said: 'These adverts are wonderfully ironic - offering teachers more money to go abroad when we are trying to deal with a shortage crisis in Britain. The children of British people living abroad have a right to be educated, but it's ironic that the government is offering significantly
higher salaries to teach outside this country.'
A DfEE spokesman said: 'These advertisements are part of an annual recruitment drive. The supplementary salaries are paid for by the European Commission to bring them into line with salaries in other European countries.'
TEACHERS GIVEN£3,000 TO STUDY OUTSIDE SCHOOL
Teachers will be offered£3,000 bursaries and the chance to take study breaks at prestigious museums, universities or scientific research establishments, reported The Independent on Sunday (p2).
Education secretary David Blunkett will this week announce the scheme as part of a£92m package to bolster the battered image of the teaching profession. One thousand teachers for the next three years will each receive£3,000, allowing them to take time off school to conduct research aimed at improving their subject knowledge or teaching ability. Mr Blunkett will also announce that newly-qualified teachers will receive additional training to help them cope with classroom life.
Ministers are struggling with a prolonged recruitment crisis as teaching fails to attract sufficient talented graduates - despite the promise to pay off trainees' student loans, and the offer of bursaries to trainees in shortage areas such as maths, science and modern languages. Mr Blunkett has already introduced 'golden
handcuffs' of up to£4,000 to help prevent talented teachers leaving some struggling schools.
This year's applications for post-graduate teacher training courses are 16% down on last year. Maths applications are down by one-third and those for English, not usually a shortage subject, are just 40% of what they were five years ago. The lack of primary teachers - a feature of inner-city schools for a number of years - is
becoming a potential crisis for secondary schools as the pupil 'bulge' moves through the system.
This month, teachers were awarded a 4.7% pay rise which, although above inflation, was criticised by teachers' leaders as inadequate to make the profession more attractive. In contrast, Scottish teachers were awarded a 10% rise and a 35-hour week, one-third of which should be spent outside the classroom.