Warning sounded over teacher shortage

A SENIOR union official has warned the teaching profession to brace itself for serious staffing problems as figures showed the number of vacancies in the region had increased.

By Danielle Nuttall

A SENIOR union official has warned the teaching profession to brace itself for serious staffing problems as figures showed the number of vacancies in the region had increased.

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said 40% of East Anglia's current teaching staff would retire from the profession within the next ten years, leaving a huge number of unfilled posts.

He was speaking after it emerged the total number of teaching vacancies in Suffolk had risen from 50.5 in September last year to 71.5 this year.

Mr Goold claimed the actual number of vacancies was much greater than figures showed because some classes were being taught by unqualified teachers, due to new Government rules.

"The shortage is greater than the figures show. In addition to that figure of 71 there will be other situations where unqualified staff will be teaching in the curriculum," he said.

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"It's worrying. It's not going to get any better over the next ten years unless there is a rapid increase in the number of trained teachers.

"Unfortunately teachers are still not staying in the profession and there's quite a large loss of loss of young teachers and the reasons most often quoted are conditions of which they work and their workload, stress factors and pupil behaviour.

"Two thirds of teachers that start a training course are not in the profession after six years," he added.

A vacant post means no permanent, suitably qualified teacher has been appointed and for which any temporary appointment is for three terms or less.

Vacancies have increased in secondary schools where it is becoming difficult to recruit qualified staff for English, maths, science, technology and modern foreign languages.

Primary schools have a wider choice of teachers in which to recruit but it is difficult to recruit primary deputy heads and headteachers of small schools.

Mr Goold said Suffolk had managed to improve its recruitment during the past two years thanks to School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). This scheme allows teachers to train locally and on the job.

Tony Lewis, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for children and young people, said: "I'm pleased that we have had much more success this year in getting information on vacancies from schools.

"This appears to show that there are a few more secondary vacancies this year.

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

"And we continue to build on our successful strategies which encourage people to train as a teacher on the job, and which attract around 250 newly qualified teachers to the county each year.

He added: "The main areas of challenge for us are in filling senior posts and finding teachers for subjects such as maths and science - a situation that is to be found all over the country.

"We are not complacent, and will be working hard with schools to make sure we can get the best teachers here to deliver a high quality education to our young people."

Chris Harrison, regional council member of the National Association of Head Teachers, warned the profession was likely to see shortages in headteachers much sooner than expected.

"The age profile of senior managers in schools and headteachers means a very high proportion are due to retire in the next five years," he said.

"The number of people coming forward to taken on the challenge of headship seems to be reducing year after year.

"The true vacancies list is likely to be larger when school budgets for next year are issued because the cost of implementing workforce reform is currently being worked out by most schools.

"At a time when you have a high number of vacancies we are going to have an even higher level of demand next year."

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