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Teachers 'priced out of homes'

A COUNTY headteacher has spoken out about the "near impossibility" of recruiting teaching staff in the face of rising house prices. Derek Barnard, head of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys for the past 15 years and a teacher with nearly 37 years experience, said he believed a crisis was fast approaching.

Mr Barnard, 57, has responsibility for 1,022 pupils and expects this to rise to 1,100 by September. His present teaching staff, including part-timers, numbers around 65.

He is now seeking to recruit design and technology, physics and music teachers, as well as a part-time English teacher.

Yet despite spending £2,500 advertising the posts nationwide, he is struggling to fill them, and he said: "I think this has been the worst year ever for recruiting teachers. At one time you could expect applications from all over, but now, unless someone is living within an hour's drive of the school, they are just not interested.

"With the average price of even a modest, semi-detached house in Tunbridge Wells currently around £150,000 it's hardly surprising people don't want to move. They simply cannot afford to."

Mr Barnard said that if he is unable to get the teachers he needs, he may have to consider shortening the working week for the students who may be affected. "You have to cut your cloth according to your means, and if you don't have someone to teach youngsters, you are left with little choice. You can't just put kids in filing trays," he said.

Hopes of introducing an A-level psychology course in September have already been dashed because a teacher cannot be found. Mr Barnard said: "It means a dozen boys have been disappointed and letters have gone out telling them they will have to reconsider their options."

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