Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Teachers' Action Forces Schools to Search for Staff

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Teachers' Action Forces Schools to Search for Staff

Article excerpt


TEACHER supply agencies are braced for a fresh surge in demand from today as schools try to avoid sending children home.

The stakes were raised in the teacher recruitment crisis after the deadline for industrial action set by the two biggest teaching unions ran out.

From today, teachers across London have the backing of their unions to refuse to cover posts which remain vacant for more than three days.

The choice for heads with unfilled vacancies who have been relying on their own staff to cover extra classes will be stark. They must find supply teachers quickly or face the prospect of putting their schools on short time.

Employment agencies which have been keeping schools in the capital open with thousands of temporary staff - many from Australia, New Zealand and, increasingly, South Africa - said that for many, the search could prove fruitless.

Tish Seabourne, managing director of TimePlan, one of the biggest, said it took more than 250 calls last week alone from heads seeking temporary teachers it could not provide, and expected demand to rise.

Despite a fresh recruiting trip to South Africa, demand for teachers already outstripped supply, and the threat of industrial action could only make matters worse.

"We are using every teacher," she said. "Everyone who wants to work gets work. We are recruiting all the time but at the end of the day, there are only so many who want to do supply teaching. " Teaching unions have warned that as many as one in three schools in London could be hit, after ballots in which more than 90 per cent of those voting backed action. But they acknowledged that the impact could be "cumulative" with children sent home only when head teachers ran out of options.

Desperate expedients could include heads taking classes, senior staff instead of union members supervising doubled up classes and anybody else qualified to teach, including local authority inspectors and even university lecturers, drafted in to do so. …

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