School attacked over £3k 'golden hello'

TEACHING unions last night criticised a school for offering a cash bonus worth thousands of pounds to try and fill a maths vacancy amid a county-wide shortage.

Laurence Cawley

TEACHING unions last night criticised a school for offering a cash bonus worth thousands of pounds to try and fill a maths vacancy amid a county-wide shortage.

King Edward VI Upper School in Bury St Edmunds is putting up a £3,000 “recruitment incentive” to fill a maths teacher post.

The cash is over and above the offered salary, which is likely to be between £20,000 and £30,000 depending on experience. But unions said the “golden hello” risked dividing staff and lowering school morale.

Suffolk County Council, the local education authority, warned the number of maths teacher vacancies had risen from just one in September last year to 12 in April and said difficulties recruiting maths and science staff was both a local and a national issue.

But Keith Anderson, Suffolk secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NAS/UWT), said he had not heard of one-off bonuses being offered in the county before.

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He said: “It would be divisive and it would set maths teachers on a higher tier within a school.

“I am aware of schools where science and maths are not the main subjects of those teaching science and maths, they are just filling gaps.”

Graham White, secretary of Suffolk National Union of Teachers, said: “We are not happy with bonus payments. I can understand that it is difficult to fill vacancies but it is a fundamental problem for the whole teaching profession.

“The solution is not to pay one group more than the other but to pay all of them more.

“Schools receive a limited amount of money and if you pay a bonus then there is less money for books.”

But King Edward VI headteacher Geoff Barton said maths was a core subject and claimed schools were now in a competitive environment when recruiting teachers.

“Every child has to do maths, so you need maths teachers,” he said. “Competition has become fierce. We advertised several times and we have had a vacancy for quite some time. That is why we are offering a golden hello.”

He said he understood that other teachers in other subjects might be disappointed with his decision.

“I would be saying the same thing if I was a teacher of English, but if there are not enough maths teachers then you have got to compete. It is a more commercially orientated world,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “There is a national shortage of maths teachers, recognised by the national Training and Development Agency making maths a designated shortage subject.

“This situation is reflected in Suffolk, despite continuing success in local recruitment of maths teachers, and in attracting people skilled in maths willing to train as teachers.

“We are currently running a Teacher Taster Course designed to introduce graduates to what it would be like to work as a maths teacher. Council recruitment staff are also involved in fairs and marketing of opportunities in Suffolk.

“We produce a leaflet each year which promotes the advantages of working and living in Suffolk, as the market is very competitive with other counties and cities vying for the same staff.”

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