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AS A new school year starts, local councils face the worst shortage of teachers for a decade. MARTIN POWELL-DAVIES, secretary of Lewisham National Union of Teachers branch says this shortage is down to poor wages, the threat of Performance-Related Pay (PRP) and general underfunding of state education.

"WE'VE JUST done a survey of schools in Lewisham. Most secondary schools and a growing number of primary schools are having big problems in recruiting staff.

One secondary school has four adverts in the Times Education Supplement this week for teachers for immediate start. Those schools which are recruiting find just a handful of applicants.

It's bad for all schools and all subjects. Maths teacher vacancies have risen by 66% in the past 12 months, As many older teachers retire or leave the job, the number of vacancies will far exceed the 1,200 newly qualified Maths teachers expected. A University of North London report into teacher supply and retention for 1998-99 predicted that there would be shortfalls. They asked teachers who were leaving why they were going. One of the top reasons was school management. Many of the more traditional heads are being replaced by managers who are told to copy the bullying tactics the government uses on teachers.

Pupil behaviour is another big reason, teachers face difficult pupils without the resources behind them. Across the board younger teachers are leaving.

The government claim that PRP will make things better. But a University of York survey of undergraduates found that 68% of students thought that a boosting of school funding would encourage them to teach. PRP was the one "reform" which most put them off teaching.

Particularly in London, we simply need a living wage. It's difficult to get supply teachers let alone full-time. We need adequate London Weighting to represent the real cost of living in London. Instead the government is rationing pay through PRP when what's needed is a living wage for all teachers."