Unqualified teachers plugging staffing gap

PUBLISHED: 11:39 25 January 2008 | UPDATED: 08:20 02 June 2010

JOHN BENNETT: “working like stink”

JOHN BENNETT: "working like stink"

UNQUALIFIED teachers now account for 12 per cent of the lessons taught at a Wisbech school — a figure that could grow unless a major staffing crisis is quickly resolved. Just because someone is unqualified it does not follow that their teaching is inadeq

UNQUALIFIED teachers now account for 12 per cent of the lessons taught at a Wisbech school - a figure that could grow unless a major staffing crisis is quickly resolved.

"Just because someone is unqualified it does not follow that their teaching is inadequate but I am working like stink to get more qualified teachers," said John Bennett, head of the Thomas Clarkson Community College.

"Actually, we have a far lower proportion of unqualified teachers than we did last year although I am sure we are well above the county average."

Mr Bennett said that despite a massive upturn in morale and a turnaround programme being well advanced, the school was still desperately short of teachers.

"We are working hard to recruit more teachers and developing staff structures to offer professional development," he said. "To be blunt, everyone at Thomas Clarkson is working to improve the school's reputation."

Gaps have been plugged by drafting in enthusiastic trainees who have shown flair and skill during a recruitment campaign last summer which attracted 80 replies.

Some of these have been taken on as teaching and learning supervisors, and many are now actively training to become teachers.

Mr Bennett has also persuaded an ex-head from Australia and an ex-head from Peterborough to work at Thomas Clarkson but his prime concern remains adding to his team, particularly in maths and English.

"There is a national shortage of maths and English teachers, that's the reality," he said. "At my former school, Marshland, in an English department of five, two teachers were from South Africa and a third was Jamaican."

Mr Bennett is also bracing the school for this year's GCSE results which he expects to drop from the 36 per cent A* to C grades last year, mainly because there are no year 11 courses at level 2 at the College of West Anglia whose grades were included in last year's overall results.

But he is confident improvements are working their way through the school, and another success has been to improve truancy rates. At 89.6 per cent, the attendance rate is still well below the 93 per cent national average, but again is nearly five per cent better than last year.

"Certainly we are trying to drive up standards - and fighting hard to do so," he added.

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman confirmed the Wisbech school was below the county average for attendance.

Cambridgeshire attendance rates are now 92.3 per cent, up a fraction on the average for England of 92.2 per cent.

"So far as unqualified teachers are concerned, Mr Bennett gave you the percentage of lessons taught by qualified teachers. We have just done a survey which shows that in January 2007 we had 188 unqualified teachers out of a total teaching staff of 4,600 teachers, and this month, the number is 235 out of 4,600 (18 of which are at Thomas Clarkson).

"We do not have the number for lessons taught by unqualified teachers. For the record an unqualified teacher is defined as someone who doesn't have qualified status but could be going for qualification.

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