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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 23:14 GMT 00:14 UK
Tough schools 'need special staff'
Head teacher
MPs are calling for more flexibility over teachers' pay
A new grade of "super teachers" is needed to fill vacancies in England's most challenging schools, MPs say.

Greater efforts must also be made to attract people from ethnic minority groups into teaching, recommends a cross-party committee of MPs.

The MPs found no evidence of general recruitment difficulties, but said specific schools did have problems.

They said extra pay was unpopular as a way of keeping people in teaching so alternative rewards should be explored.

But the House of Commons education select committee said financial incentives had been successful in recruiting people to teach specific subjects.

So it argues that "where there are persistent problems of recruitment, it is surely right, in the interests of children's education, that financial incentives are available to attract teachers".

Drop-out trainees

The MPs raised concerns that fewer than 50% of those who begin teacher training are teaching after five years.

Committee chairman, Barry Sheerman, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this drop-out rate was an "enormous waste of taxpayers' money" and of people's time.

Badly-behaved pupils can drive teachers out of the job

He rejected the argument that greater flexibility over pay would create a "two-tier" system, saying that there was already a "multi-tier" system, including financial incentives for shortage subjects.

But the report says teaching should no longer be seen as a "career for life".

"What is needed is a good balance within the profession; those who have long-term careers in teaching, those who teach and then move on to another career and those who come to teaching as a second or third career."

Secondary school head teachers were still struggling to fill posts in some subjects, namely maths, science, languages, technology and English.

And MPs want more information on how many teachers are teaching outside of their specialist subjects.

US experiment

The cross-party group of MPs says teachers should be offered specialist training to work in challenging schools and given on-going support.

Flexible rates of pay ... would help those schools experiencing recruitment and retention problems
Barry Sheerman, education select committee chairman

The committee visited a training programme in the United States - Center X in California - where recruits committed to working in inner-city schools were given specific support and training.

"The establishment of a training programme along the lines of Center X would attract people who are keen to work in these more difficult circumstances and ... would encourage more applicants from minority ethnic communities," the committee's report says.

The report also says there is a clear need for more teachers from ethnic minority communities and a need "to ensure that they are able to make equitable progress in the profession".

Ill-behaved pupils

Poor behaviour among pupils is also highlighted as a problem for retaining secondary school staff, with many teachers citing this as the primary reason for leaving the profession.

Government strategies to improve behaviour must be "pursued with vigour" if they help and if they do not, alternatives must be found.

MPs are concerned at the drop-out rate from teaching
The behaviour of senior teachers is also brought to light in the report, with MPs noting that some heads and senior staff were failing to encourage newly qualified teachers and driving them away from the profession.

"Most worrying of all is evidence of 'rogue' heads and managers who may blight someone's career before it begins," the report warns.

MPs urge the National College for School Leadership in Nottingham to train heads to be more aware of the impact they can have upon staff retention.

Flexible pay

Mr Sheerman said: "Flexible rates of pay to reward those teachers in shortage subjects and areas or schools which have difficulties in recruiting staff, would help those schools experiencing recruitment and retention problems."

Finance is one incentive, but what about giving teachers more power over unruly pupils and reducing class sizes to make the job less stressful?
Gareth Williams, Cardiff

The School Standards Minister, David Miliband, said: "The current pay and incentives package is helping to attract record numbers into teaching."

"Teachers' salaries already operate on a regional basis with four separate pay scales for inner London, outer London, the fringe and the rest of England and Wales," he said.

"In addition schools can also be flexible in the pay decisions they make by giving teachers recruitment and retention incentives, benefits to meet local needs and circumstances, and make decisions on teachers' pay progression."

Shadow education secretary Tim Collins warned: "While this report is pushing the debate on teachers' pay in the right direction it will, if implemented, create a two-tier system between those schools that can set their own pay and those that can't."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the existing flexibility within the pay structure seemed to answer many of the committee's recommendations.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"This report contains pretty worrying statistics"

Center X for inner-city teachers
21 Sep 04  |  Education
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05 Sep 03  |  London
Teachers 'unhappy' at government
12 Dec 03  |  Education
Is teaching the most stressful job?
27 Mar 04  |  Education
Super-teachers raising standards
31 Oct 03  |  Education
2,000 bonus for maths teachers
28 Jun 04  |  Education
More teachers but in wrong areas
09 Nov 03  |  Education

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