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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Teacher shortages worst for decades
classroom
Returning teachers could ease the shortage
Teacher shortages are at their worst level for decades, according to the chief inspector of schools in England.

As schools prepare for the start of a new academic year, Mike Tomlinson said the shortages were at their most widespread since he began teaching in 1965.

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) chief said 40% of teachers were leaving the profession before completing three years in the classroom because their salaries offered them little hope of getting on the property ladder.

But the Department for Education said that at the beginning of the new term in England there would be more teachers than at any time since 1984.


We continue to attract more people into the profession - building on work we have done in introducing training and welcome-back bursaries, shortage-subject incentives and new routes into teaching

Department for Education
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "There are 12,000 more teachers in our classrooms today than in 1998.

"We know the recruitment market remains tight," she continued.

"That is why we continue to attract more people into the profession - building on work we have done in introducing training and welcome-back bursaries, shortage-subject incentives and new routes into teaching."

In March, the government announced it was offering bursaries of 150 a week for people taking courses to return to the teaching profession.

Childcare costs

It also pledged to pay up to 150 a week to help with childcare costs while people were on the course.

It is offering bonuses of 4,000 to people coming back to teach shortage subjects like maths, sciences, languages and English.

People returning to non-shortage subjects qualify for a bonus of 2,000.

The government also recently confirmed details of a scheme to help teachers and other key sector workers to buy cheaper homes in London and the south east.


If a school is short of science teachers, then children will have fewer science lessons

Christine Hood
NUT

But these incentives have not stopped an agreement being drawn up between teaching unions and local education authorities to allow teachers to work overtime to cover for vacancies.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) representative, Christine Hood, told BBC News that between 400 and 500 extra teachers were needed in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Luton education authority areas.

"Schools have already adjusted their timetables for September to cope with shortages in various subjects," she said.

Alternative occupation

"If a school is short of science teachers, then children will have fewer science lessons."

Ms Hood continued: "There have been fewer and fewer highly qualified graduates entering the profession at a time when more and more are needed.

"Salaries have got to be improved so teachers do not feel they are at the bottom of the pile and the basic conditions of work - class size, resources, bureaucracy - have got to be improved.

"Most teachers would love to just get on with teaching - but they can't, and if they find any alternative occupation they jump for it."

The Shadow Education Secretary Theresa May said that the chief inspector's comments confirmed a longstanding staffing problem that the government had failed to tackle.

"The government has got to wake up to the problem of keeping teachers in the profession, a problem they will only solve by reducing the burden of bureaucracy and letting teachers teach," she said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Niall Dickson
"In response today the Government was putting on a brave face"
Mike Tomlinson, Ofsted
"This is a very touch and go situation"
Stephen Timms MP, Schools minister
"I am hopeful there will not be any disruption to children's education"
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