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Friday, 5 January, 2001, 16:28 GMT
Teacher shortage is 'housing problem'
House sign
Teachers are being priced out by housing costs
By BBC News Online's Sean Coughlan

The teacher shortage is being blamed in part on high house prices, by an authority struggling to fill vacancies.

And by helping to find affordable accommodation and lending money for deposits, Bracknell Forest in Berkshire has cut its vacancies by two-thirds in a month.

Nobody is grasping the nettle, that we need a regional pay scale that takes into account the scarcity of staff and the higher costs of living

Alan Ward, Bracknell Forest education chairman
But the only long-term solution to the crisis is to scrap the national salary scale and to introduce a regional pay scale, says Bracknell Forest's education chairman, Alan Ward.

"Nobody is grasping the nettle, that we need a regional pay scale that takes into account the scarcity of staff, the difficulties in retaining teachers and the higher costs of living.

"This government is usually very keen on regions - and we need to have a teachers' pay scale that recognises regional differences. And fiddling around with London allowances won't be enough to solve the problem."

"If you take the United States as a comparison, in a state such as Virginia, each of the 125 counties has its own pay scale for teachers."

Starting salaries

Before Christmas, the authority warned that recruitment problems were becoming severe and began to take measures to find ways of making it easier for teachers to live in the area.

This included giving salary advances to pay deposits on accommodation and working with lettings agencies to find places for teachers to live.

This housing approach to the problem has seen vacancies fall from 33 to 10 at the beginning of the new term - enough to take away the risk of schools having to cut timetables.

Competition for graduates

"Ten schools will have to reorganise classes but no schools are expected to have to send pupils home for part of the time," said the authority's director of education, Tony Eccleston.

Mr Ward says that for a three-bedroom house in the borough, an average price will be around 220,000, which is beyond the reach of younger teachers.

And a spokesman for the authority also says that a further pressure on the supply of teachers in an area such as the Thames Valley is the range of alternative jobs on offer.

Much larger starting salaries are available for graduates in the area, such as from the information technology sector.

There have been other areas of the south-east, outside London, which have reported particular difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers - including schools in Essex, Wiltshire and Slough.

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See also:

05 Jan 01 | Education
Another school shut by shortages
03 Jan 01 | Education
Four-day week threat in schools
18 Dec 00 | Education
Rise in teacher numbers
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