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EDITIONS
Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Heads predict recruitment disaster
Jenny Simpson
Jenny Simpson says recruitment is a real problem
By BBC News Online's Katherine Sellgren at the NAHT conference in Harrogate

Head teachers are warning that the education service is in crisis over teacher supply.

Angela Martinson, a head from East Riding, said the issue of recruitment and retention had dominated the National Association of Head Teachers' conference in Harrogate.

"The issues are a major concern to all of us and the government has misread the problem," she told delegates.

Tim Benson, head of Nelson Primary School in East Ham, London, said he was struggling to fill eight vacanices for next September.

Tim Benson, head teacher
Tim Benson: Struggling to fill eight posts
"For the third time this year we've put a block advert in the Times Educational Supplement and we've had no suitable replies - no-one even worth an interview," Mr Benson said.

"The whole thing undermines the very good work we've been doing.

"Society is effectively telling children that their education isn't important because we can't even put a teacher in front of their class," he said.

"Grey hairs"

Head teacher Jenny Simpson said recruitment and retention at senior levels needed urgent attention.

"Just look around the conference and see how many grey hairs there are - it says it all," Mrs Simpson said.

Head of a Church of England infant school in the New Forest, Mrs Simpson is better off than many.

But last year an advertised senior teacher post brought forward just one applicant.

This despite the fact that Lymington Infants is a popular school, with good facilities, and generally viewed as a nice place to work, she said.

"At senior management level there's a real problem - young people don't want to do it.

"They come in and stay for a couple of years, then say they want a better balance in their personal life and can't afford to buy a house," she said.

Supply teachers

Supply teachers are so hard to come by that Mrs Simpson has arranged for her deputy head to be taken out of the classroom so she can do most of the supply work.

"It's crisis, it's desperation, wondering if you're going to have a teachers in front of the classroom.

"And you may be tempted to employ supply teachers who you know are not of the quality you would expect."

Beyond that, the time taken up writing job descriptions and adverts could be better spent, she said.

Widespread

As regional representative for the NAHT, Mrs Simpson contacted all head teachers in Hampshire to ask how they fared in recruitment and retention.

"I had 50 replies in 24 hours from heads in desperate circumstances - and they're from all sectors, not just secondary.

"Now if we're having problems in Hampshire, which is a nice place to live, with a supportive LEA, what's it like where it's really bad?"

The situation regarding teacher vacancies this September would be dire, she predicted, and had not been helped by the Department for Education's failure to recognise there was a crisis.

Best job

But despite her concerns, Mrs Simpson, said: "It's the best job in the world - because of the children".

Asked if she would go into teaching if she had her time again, she was adamant she would.

"Even when I've had a day being harangued by everyone, I can spend time with a child and perhaps make a difference to that child's life.

"We need people who feel like that - idealistic people who have a dream," she said.

See also:

31 May 01 | UK Education
11 Apr 01 | UK Education
09 Apr 01 | UK Education
19 Mar 01 | UK Education
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