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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 11:37 GMT
Teacher shortage 'damaging schools'
Many schools are depending on temporary staff
The teacher shortage is threatening to undermine improvements in schools, warns the new head of the Office for Standards in Education.

The Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Mike Tomlinson, presenting his first annual report on school standards, said that difficulties in finding staff could lower the quality of lessons.

An inspector warns ...
Behaviour worsening
Teacher shortages threaten standards
Variations in funding are unfair
Boys struggle with writing
Ethnic minority pupil underachievement
Gap between best and worst secondary schools widening

Without an adequate supply of teachers, too many schools were being forced to depend on temporary staff or teachers without a subject specialism.

This reliance on temporary cover could jeopardise efforts to improve schools, warned the schools watchdog.

The School Standards Minister Estelle Morris said that the government "fully recognised the need to recruit more teachers" and had turned around a long-term decline in students entering teacher training.
Mike Tomlinson
Mike Tomlinson has added his voice to concerns over teacher shortages

But the Conservative education spokesperson, Theresa May, seized upon the report as "a stark warning that Labour's complacency over the teacher recruitment crisis threatens the very real progress made in standards".

Mr Tomlinson also warned that classroom behaviour is worsening, with an increase in unruly behaviour in the early years of secondary school.

A small number of disruptive pupils - and inconsistencies in styles of teaching - were contributing to a growing discipline problem, he said.

But despite such concerns, Mr Tomlinson also accentuated the positive, saying that there had been an overall improvement in teaching standards, with a sharp decline in unsatisfactory lessons.

In 1994-95, one in five lessons were judged as unsatisfactory by schools, but now the figure had fallen to one in twenty, said the chief inspector.

Unfair funding

There were also signs that schools in the most disadvantaged areas were making considerable improvements, he said.

Mr Tomlinson also drew attention to the disparities in the current funding system, which saw differences of up to 500,000 a year between secondary schools with similar numbers of pupils.

As part of the annual report, Ofsted publishes a list of the most successful schools visited by inspectors during the year.

But Mr Tomlinson warned that there was a growing gap in the secondary sector between the achievements of such high achieving schools and those at the other end of scale.

"The biggest gains have been made by schools already performing well. Consequently the gap has widened, despite the fact that there are examples of very good secondary schools serving severely disadvantaged communities," he said.

Shortages damage behaviour

Teachers' unions reacted positively to the report, welcoming its support for the achievements of teachers.

And Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, linked the themes of teacher shortages and pupil misbehaviour.

Schools which had too many temporary teachers could find it difficult to impose a consistent sense of discipline, said Mr de Gruchy.

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) said the report recognised "the huge improvement in examination results, quality of teaching and school leadership in recent years".

These are positive messages which identify some of the difficulties teachers face and on which the government must act

Doug McAvoy, National Union of Teachers
"I also welcome the acknowledgement that this has often been achieved in poor buildings with insufficient textbooks," he added.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said Mr Tomlinson's warnings over teacher shortages echoed those of his union and should "cause the government to end its complacency".

"It is this complacency and the government attitude to teachers' pay that is responsible for teacher shortages not teachers or their unions," Mr McAvoy said.

"He is right also to pinpoint the pressures on teachers brought about by the unacceptable behaviour of some pupils.

"These are positive messages which identify some of the difficulties teachers face and on which the government must act," he added.

The BBC's Mike Baker
"Overall this report identifies a general improvement in standards"
Chief Inspector of Schools Mike Tomlinson
"I would like to pay due regard and due respect to teachers"
Head teacher Tony McDonald
"We don't have a problem in teaching - we have a crisis"
See also:

06 Feb 01 | Education
Schools succeed against odds
06 Feb 01 | Education
Successful primary schools
06 Feb 01 | Education
Successful secondary schools
05 Jan 01 | Education
Another school shut by shortages
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