Suffolk needs teachers - official

TEACHER shortages are still hitting hard in Suffolk, unions warned today – despite Government claims that the problem is easing.New official figures showed that the number of unfilled teaching posts has fallen slightly over the last year across the country as a whole.

By Judy Rimmer

TEACHER shortages are still hitting hard in Suffolk, unions warned today – despite Government claims that the problem is easing.

New official figures showed that the number of unfilled teaching posts has fallen slightly over the last year across the country as a whole.

The vacancy rate, as a proportion of teachers in post, fell from 1.4 to 1.2 per cent in the year to January 2002.


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However, while London and the South of England – the area hardest hit by teacher shortages – had fewer unfilled posts, most of the rest of England saw vacancy rates rising.

In the East of England, the vacancy rate showed a rise from 1.7 to 1.8pc. Suffolk's most recent vacancy figures, issued in January, saw 44 unfilled posts compared to 21 in September, while temporary appointments soared from 97 to 129.

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And another round of recruitment is now starting, with jobs being advertised for the new school year in September.

"There may well be a slight improvement, but the crisis is not over," said Martin Goold, Suffolk county secretary for the National Union of Teachers, today. "The long-term prospects still look dire."

He added that many posts had been filled by bringing in teachers from overseas on one-year contracts. "That means you still have to find another teacher for the next year – you are running to stand still."

However, Education Secretary Estelle Morris hailed the figures as evidence that the Government was making progress in the drive to recruit and retain more teachers.

The slight fall in vacancies nationally showed that measures such as 6,000 training bursaries and 4,000 "golden hellos" offered to graduates in the so-called shortage subjects' were beginning to have an effect, she said.

"I am not complacent for one moment. We are moving in the right direction but I know we have more to do."

However, David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Clearly schools have started to repair the damage caused by years of staffing cuts, but there are still too many temporary and supply teachers covering up real vacancies."

Suffolk's teacher recruitment manager Seamus Fox and his team have been working hard to try to attract as many teachers as possible to come and work in the county, despite the national shortages.

Moira Jackson, Suffolk's education communications manager, said the team visited universities to woo newly-qualified teachers and was also organising local roadshows.

"More than 250 people expressed an interest in teaching at our September roadshows. We run a number of schemes to train teachers locally and on the job and we are the third most successful LEA in the country at recruiting people to the Graduate Teachers Programme."

n Anyone interested in teaching in Suffolk should call the Teacher Recruitment Service on 01502 405240.

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