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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 17:17 GMT
Teacher shortage sends pupils home
students leaving past clock
Students left Holywells High at morning break
A secondary school which is short of teachers has had to send pupils home.

Up to 600 pupils are to miss classes this week at Holywells High School in Ipswich, with the first group of 200 14 year olds leaving school at the mid-morning break on Monday.

Teacher shortage union action
Rangefield school, Lewisham, sends home 27 pupils

Holywells High School, Ipswich, sends home 200 pupils - but this was planned before union action
This is the second school to send home pupils since the launch of a "no cover" protest by two teachers' unions, in which teachers are refusing to cover for long-term absences.

The first school, Rangefield primary in Lewisham, London, is providing a full timetable again after a loss of some lessons last week.

The head of Holywells High School, Barrie Whelpton, said that he had no choice but to cut the timetable, although that decision was taken before most of his teaching staff voted to join the action.

"We got to the stage where we didn't have teachers to put in front of classes - and for the last couple of weeks the deputy head has had to supervise several classes in the library," he said.

"We've got to the stage where that wasn't feasible any more."

parent
Parents are "not happy"
Parents meeting their children outside the school were angry.

"I'm disgusted," said one.

"We pay all our poll tax and everything and they should be in school really as far as I'm concerned," said another.

The reduced timetable is not directly the result of industrial action, as teachers are not due to begin their no-cover ban at the school until next week.

GCSE students will not be affected by the timetable cuts, but younger pupils will lose up to six lessons a week, because of vacancies for English, science, technology, music and dance teachers.

The school has paid for activities at a local sports centre which will provide places for about half those sent home.

It is anticipated that it will maintain the "emergency timetable" for the next three weeks - until the arrival of five newly-hired teachers after Easter.

Barrie Whelpton
Barrie Whelpton says attempts to cover for vacancies were "no longer feasible"
The school has had problems since a number of staff left at Christmas, and had to delay its reopening after the Christmas holiday.

School inspectors have recommended that the school be put into "special measures" and there have been particular recruitment problems in such "failing" schools.

The Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, said Holywells had found it difficult to attract and keep staff and her department was working with the school and the local education authority to try to help.

She hoped teachers who were considering taking action would reconsider in view of the action the government was taking to address what everyone agreed was a problem.

"What I would ask those teachers considering taking action to do is to work with us as a government to try to attract teachers into the profession and not make the situation worse."

The "cover to contract" campaign, by members of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, is in protest at what the unions call a crisis in teacher recruitment.

Action ballots

The first area-wide votes for action were in London and Doncaster.

There have been subsequent votes for action over shortages in eight other areas of England, with further ballots still ongoing.

The sending home of 27 pupils at Rangefield Primary school in Lewisham, south London last week occurred when teachers refused to cover for a sick colleague.

Head teacher at Rangefield, Maggie Ayres, said pupils were allowed back on Friday after Thursday's disruption, when a supply teacher was found with help from the local education authority.

"Teaching should be the best job in the world but they've managed to kill the joy and it is successive governments that have done this," said the head teacher.

The local authority, the London Borough of Lewisham, says that it is watching the situation carefully, with future staffing levels at the school depending on factors such as staff ringing in sick and the availability of supply teachers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Baker
"Most teacher shortages are in areas of high living costs"
Schools Minister Jacqui Smith
"It's a challenging school which has not found it easy to attract and keep staff"
Head teacher Barrie Whelpton
"We have had problems since Christmas"
See also:

15 Mar 01 | Scotland
Teacher shortages predicted
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