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Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Teacher commutes 200 miles
Motorway
The long drive home to Yorkshire on a Friday night
By BBC News Online's Sean Coughlan

An Islington teacher is having to commute from Huddersfield in Yorkshire, as property prices make it impossible for him to afford to live in London.

Andy Magee, an information technology teacher at Islington Green secondary school in north London, says that even one-bedroom flats are out of his price range.

Andy Magee
Andy Magee says that he has applied to 40 housing associations

So on Friday nights, Mr Magee travels up to his home in Yorkshire on a journey that at best will take four hours.

Since the train fare can cost him 80, he often drives. This means that when he returns on a Monday morning, he has to set off at 4am, and because of the traffic, he has to park outside central London and catch a train for the final leg of his marathon journey to work.

At the end of Monday, he then gets a train back to collect his car and then drives to a relative's house, where he stays during the week.

Mr Magee said that this way of life, which he began when he took up the post last term, is not sustainable.

And he says that it seems to be leaving him with two options - either leave London or leave teaching, neither of which he wants to do.

'Impossible'

"I don't want to sound negative or come across as a whinger," he says. "I want to teach in London, it's a good place to cut your teeth and I'm in an excellent school.

"But I'm being prevented from doing my job properly because the housing prices make it impossible to live there."

Apart from the time and expense of his long-distance commuting, Mr Magee says that tiredness must have a detrimental effect on his teaching.

"If I was a coach driver I wouldn't be allowed to drive my pupils around after so little sleep. But I'm allowed to be put in charge of teaching them."

With newly-qualified teachers earning around 20,000 a year, Mr Magee says that buying or renting are both prohibitively expensive - with the cheapest properties likely to take 80% of his salary.

And even before facing the unequal struggle of paying a mortgage in the capital, he says he has still to clear his student loans.

Teacher shortage

He says that he has applied to 40 different housing associations for help and the most that he was offered was a promise by one that he would be put on a waiting list - with the other 39 saying they could offer nothing.

Mr Magee, aged 29, has also applied to the council, which offered him a flat on the 22nd floor of an undesirable estate, which he rejected on the grounds of safety.

"I'm not asking for a penthouse suite with a swimming pool, but it needs to be somewhere that feels secure - and where it won't be absolutely certain that your car will be missing in the morning."

With the prospect of further teacher shortages in the autumn term, Mr Magee is the kind of teacher that the government has been desperate to recruit.

Being young, male and an information technology specialist are all commodities that are in demand for teachers in inner-city schools.

And Mr Magee says that part of his reluctance to give up on his huge journey to work is the knowledge that there is no-one to replace him.

When he was appointed, he said that he was on a shortlist of one, as there were no other applicants who were suitably qualified.

He also says that schools benefit from teachers who live locally, making it possible to run after-school clubs and other evening activities.

But the present housing market looks as though it will exclude him from living near his school - a situation which he says is "crazy".

"And just because something has become normal, it doesn't make it right."

The school at which he teaches, Islington Green, is one of the local schools that the Prime Minister Tony Blair chose not to send his children.

And Mr Magee's union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, says that families whose children were taught in the borough also deserved "quality teachers" as much as children sent outside Islington.

"How are London schools ever going to fill their vacancies when faced with an impossible situation such as this," said the union's general secretary, Peter Smith.

"What more can dedicated teachers be expected to do to provide an education for inner-city children."

The government earlier this year announced plans for housing subsidies for public sector workers, including support for 2,000 teachers in London and the south-east of England.

See also:

09 Aug 01 | Education
London teacher shortage crisis
03 Aug 01 | Education
Cheaper homes for teachers
05 Jan 01 | Education
Teacher shortage is 'housing problem'
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