London public and state schools unite to find science teacher amid hiring ‘crisis’

UCL Academy Co-Principals, Robin Street and Simon McBride (ES Picture Desk)
UCL Academy Co-Principals, Robin Street and Simon McBride (ES Picture Desk)

A top London private school and a leading state secondary have joined forces to recruit a shared chemistry teacher because it is so difficult to find specialist staff in London.

The £21,000-a-year all-girls selective South Hampstead High School and neighbouring mixed state UCL Academy are advertising for a teacher to work across both schools in what is believed to be the first arrangement of its kind.

Both schools had been separately looking for their own chemistry teachers but were unable to find suitable candidates.

They hope that by creating the role, which will allow candidates to split their time between private and state sectors, they will grab the attention of teachers attracted by forward-thinking schools and tempt them to work with them.

Robin Street, co-principal of UCL Academy, which was set up in 2012 by University College London, said: “Recruitment is sadly hugely competitive. Teachers of certain subjects are rare commodities, so schools have to think creatively to find the right person to fill that gap.

“We are two completely different schools with exactly the same issue — we have spent so long trying to find a chemistry teacher and not having people walk through the door. We need to do something different.

“It might fall flat on its face, but you can choose to whinge about the recruitment crisis and not being able to find teachers, or you can do something about it.”

The headteachers of both schools will select the successful candidate, who will have two separate contracts and will likely have different salaries and split their time between the schools.

The recruitment and retention of teachers is a huge issue for London where rents are high and other well-paid jobs are available.

Mary Bousted, president of the National Education Union, whose members were on strike on Wednesday, said the Government missed its secondary school teacher training targets by 41 per cent this year, meaning only three out of 17 subjects have enough teachers.

Vicky Bingham, head of South Hampstead High, said her school had been without a permanent chemistry teacher since the start of this academic year. The school advertised three times in the summer term and had several cycles of recruitment in the autumn term.

She said: “Even the agencies have been saying to me they just don’t have anybody on their books. Even the high-end tutoring company I rang to say ‘Where are you hiding all the chemistry teachers’ said we don’t have any.

“It is particularly a problem in London where the rental market is a mess. If you can only recruit teachers from the demographic that already lives in the capital you are really limiting your pool.”

Mr Street said the new role would give a teacher the chance to see what life was like working in the two different sectors and break the stereotypes that exist about state and private schools.