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The BBC's Mike Baker
"One school in three will be affected"
 real 56k

Nigel de Gruchy, NASUWT
"I think parents will support us"
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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 00:30 GMT
Teachers vote for action on shortages
Teachers say they will no longer cover for shortages
Teachers in London have voted to refuse to cover for staff shortages.

This raises the threat of pupils having to be sent home - with a union leader claiming that the "no cover" action will force a third of the capital's schools onto a part-time timetable.

Teacher shortage ballot results
93% in London support action against shortages
93% in Doncaster support action
30% London turn-out
38.5% Doncaster turn-out

In a ballot held by the two biggest teachers' unions, teachers in and around the capital have voted by more than nine to one in favour of "working to contract".

This means that teachers will no longer take on extra lessons to cover for long-term vacancies - and its impact could lead to schools becoming unable to provide a full five-day week.

But although those teachers that voted showed overwhelming support for action against shortages - more than two thirds of the teachers balloted did not vote at all.

I estimate that about a third of schools in London and Doncaster could be forced to go on to some form of part-time schooling

Nigel de Gruchy, NASUWT
The Education Secretary David Blunkett attacked the planned work to rule as "entirely counter-productive".

"Industrial action will not solve the recruitment problem - all it will do is to make the task of raising standards and engaging children's commitment that much harder," he said.

The National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers have held the ballot among members in and around London, where there have been particular problems with teacher shortages.

Teachers in Doncaster have also voted in support of action and results of separate ballots in Leicester, Kent, Portsmouth, Southampton, Middlesbrough and Nottingham will be announced next month.

"I estimate that about a third of schools in London and Doncaster could be forced to go on to some form of part-time schooling," said Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT.

"Teachers rightly see no reason why they should paper over the cracks. Supply teachers are deployed to cover the permanent vacancies the government denies exist," said Mr de Gruchy.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, said the ballot result "made clear to government that teachers are tired of its refusal to address the fundamental problems causing the shortage of teachers."

"Teachers are no longer prepared to assist with the cover-up. Parents should know the extent to which the shortage of teachers impacts on education," said Mr McAvoy.

Four-day week

The Department for Education, which has maintained that there are more teachers in classrooms than two years ago, has called the ballot and threat of action "irresponsible".

This winter has seen a long-running dispute over teacher shortages, with the unions claiming that staffing levels were at breaking point and the government making assurances that its recruitment plans were working.

There have already been a handful of schools temporarily forced to adopt a four-day week because of a lack of teachers.

And the schools inspectorate, Ofsted, has warned that an over-dependence on temporary supply teachers could lead to worsening behaviour in schools.

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See also:

06 Feb 01 | Education
Teacher shortage 'damaging schools'
13 Jan 01 | Correspondents
Truth about teacher shortages
27 Feb 01 | Education
Retired teachers to relieve shortage
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