Union sceptical over teacher vacancies

TEACHERS' representatives have warned that an apparent drop in the number of teacher vacancies this autumn is not the good news that it appears.Teacher vacancies are down compared with last year in Suffolk, where figures show 50.

TEACHERS' representatives have warned that an apparent drop in the number of teacher vacancies this autumn is not the good news that it appears.

Teacher vacancies are down compared with last year in Suffolk, where figures show 50.5 compared with 70 last September, and in Essex, where final figures are yet to be confirmed.

But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Suffolk branch secretary Martin Goold cited three reasons why the union was still concerned about the situation.

They included the lifting of restrictions in August on headteachers appointing people they considered appropriate, but who had no experience or teaching qualification. Redundancies created by the year's budget crisis and secondary schools dealing with shortages in key subjects by dropping them from the GCSE curriculum.


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Suffolk's National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) branch secretary Chris Harrison said that the problem, particularly in primary schools, was less about vacancies and more about the inability to increase staff in line with a new national agreement

The agreement aims for higher level teaching assistants to be in place in schools by September 2005 to allow teachers with subject and senior management responsibilities free time to monitor standards.

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He said: "Agreements have been signed, the issues have been confirmed and prioritised but the funding is so limited progress will be minimal. It's led to enormous frustration among head teachers."

Tony Lewis, Suffolk County Council executive committee member, said: "I'm pleased the teacher vacancy figures have improved compared to last year but we are not complacent as there is still work to be done.

"We continue to monitor vacancies to ensure that we are working closely with schools to keep permanent jobs filled by permanent appointments wherever possible."

He added that there were still challenges in filling senior posts, finding teachers for mathematics, English, science, technology and modern foreign languages and added a post would still be considered vacant if it was not filled by a permanent suitably qualified teacher.

Essex too has experienced the same difficulties finding qualified teachers for subject areas but has had the added problem of spiralling house prices.

Cabinet member for education Iris Pummell said: "We don't think there's a lot to be positive about on teachers' availability.

"Slight reductions in pupil numbers particularly in primary schools, a shortage of money in school budgets to take on new appointments and in some cases schools having to make redundancies mean although the figures are expected to be better it's for the wrong reasons."

A spokeswoman for the DfES (Department for Education and Science) said that an extra 13,400 teachers had been recruited since January 2001 and that the numbers recruited to train in shortage subjects had risen this year though the Government recognised there were still problems for some schools.

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