Foreign recruits hit record numbers

Bulgarians drafted in as size of problem becomes clear

Thursday August 30, 2001

Record numbers of teachers who trained in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even Bulgaria and Russia, will be arriving to start new jobs in schools in England in the next few days, as local education authorities opt for short-term solutions to what is now being officially acknowledged as the worst shortage of teaching staff for nearly 40 years.

Authorities have in many cases successfully reduced high numbers of vacancies recorded at the end of the summer term, but there are still major gaps to be filled.

The Guardian’s findings - based on data collected from more than 100 local education authorities - represent the first comprehensive break down of the current situation.
Overall, even LEAs which reported that the situation was broadly the same as last year still said it was much harder work to fill vacancies, with greater resources (specialist staff and money) being devoted to recruitment.

But in a worrying trend, those costs are also being borne by schools. Advertising for vacant teacher positions for the coming autumn term has cost one school, The Wavell School in Hampshire, £25,000.

Well off suburbs with top-performing comprehensives, as well as struggling inner-city areas, are affected by the teacher shortage, the survey shows.

In central London, even the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has 16 vacancies (2.5% of the workforce) and admits the situation is worse than last year.

Christine Hood, the National Union of Teachers representative for Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Luton LEAs, which have more than 300 vacancies, warned: “Schools have already adjusted their timetables for September to cope with shortages in various subjects. If a school is short of science teachers, then children will have fewer science lessons.”

As expected, hordes of foreign teachers will arrive from Commonwealth countries as the result of the most sophisticated and expensive recruitment campaigns organised through specialist supply agencies.

But eastern Europe is also providing teachers - the London Borough of Southwark (which still has 30 unfilled vacancies) is taking on four Bulgarian and four Russian teachers. Testwood school in Totton, Hampshire, has recruited seven Bulgarian teachers.

A spokesman for the London borough of Bromley, which has what is thought to be the highest proportion of pupils in the country travelling in and out of the borough to school, said the situation, compared with last year, was “undoubtedly much, much worse.”

Of the London boroughs, Hackney in east London has the highest vacancy rate recorded anywhere in the country - 8 %. It needs to fill 101 teaching jobs by next week, and describes the situation this year as worse than last year. It is recruiting teachers from South Africa, New Zealand, the West Indies and India.

But it is still stung by the bad publicity triggered by two South African teachers who recently advised their fellow countrymen not to come to England, citing unruly pupils and classroom stress.

Hillingdon schools, with a 2.74% vacancy rate, have been using a number of different routes to filling posts. These include advertising in foreign newspapers to recruit direct. One school received 18 applications and recruited five teachers via this route.

Even areas where selective systems are still in place, including Kent and Buckinghamshire, have experienced problems, thanks to the high cost of housing.

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