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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 17:48 GMT
Teacher agencies struggle to fill gaps
Agencies are searching the globe to find teachers
Teacher agencies are still struggling to find enough recruits and reject claims that they are profiteering from the teacher shortage.

Any increases in fees charged to schools reflected higher pay and the cost of overseas recruitment campaigns, say agencies which provide temporary cover for vacancies in schools.

According to one of the largest agencies, Teaching Personnel, in London it has had to offer teachers between 20 to 30 a day more since the beginning of the year - and this has meant higher charges to schools.

Yolanda Samaria
Yolanda Samaria from Namibia is one of many overseas teachers in London

And another agency, TimePlan, says that it is expecting to increase its fees to schools and payments to staff next month.

Despite the prospect of better pay, there is little sign of the recruitment problem abating, say the agencies.

Turning down bookings

Teaching Personnel says that it is turning away 6,000 booking requests a week because it does not have enough staff.

And it says it is about to open up a new recruitment front in Europe in the next couple of weeks, when it begins a campaign to find continental teachers with sufficient English language skills.

TimePlan has already been active in its overseas recruitment drives, made necessary because of the "depleted" supplies of teachers in the UK.

Last Monday, on a single day, TimePlan says it recruited 50 teachers for UK schools in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Such staff will fill the gaps in schools - but for a longer-term solution there is a need for an expansion in the numbers of teachers, say the agencies, and that will take time for students to be trained.

Head teachers worried

As an illustration of how much schools have grown to depend on agencies in recent years, Teaching Personnel says that it has grown from a two-person company five years ago to having 150 staff.

The agency has a total of 45,000 teachers on its books, but only a small fraction of these will be working at any one time.

Head teachers unions say that the extra expense of supply teachers has been a concern - but that it is a by-product of the larger problem of the teacher shortage.

Bob Carstairs, assistant general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, says that when teachers are in such demand, it is inevitable there will be increased costs.

"These agencies are run by business people, and whether it's fair to charge more isn't really the right question," he said.

"What troubles heads more is that it is becoming progressively more difficult to find teachers - and they worry about the costs afterwards."

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