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Editor hits out at Brown over teaching jobs site

A senior regional editor has expressed dismay over a new government website designed to provide schools with a cheaper alternative to advertising teaching jobs in the local press.

Northern Echo editor Peter Barron accused the government of “speaking with a forked tongue” in launching the Schools Recruitment Service site, weeks after premier Gordon Brown pledged to keep local newspapers “at the heart of Britain.”

Writing on his blog, Peter claimed the initiative would divert vital local press advertising revenue into the Treasury’s coffers.

A press release announcing the launch of the site sent to newsdesks by schools minister Vernon Coaker this week makes specific reference to the cost of local newspaper advertising, saying the initiative will offer savings of up to £30m a year.

Peter wrote: “I can’t help thinking that there’s a conflict between what the Prime Minister says about the importance of local papers, and one of his ministers rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of vital advertising revenue being taken away from those same local newspapers and diverted into a government portal.

“The irony is that the schools minister is actually sending out press releases to local newspapers across the country, asking them to advertise (for free) the government’s new online service which is designed to undermine their businesses.”

The new website advertises permanent posts for teachers, support staff and management roles and so far 52 local authorities, representing 8,000 schools, and 32 academies have jumped on board.

At present there is no obligation for local education authorities to sign up so they are free to continue advertising in their local newspapers.

Estimates suggest that schools in England alone spend at least £46.7m annually on advertising and filling 100,000 teaching vacancies and a further 50,000 non-teaching positions such as administrative and catering staff.

In its press release, the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the service offers “huge savings in…..the cost of re-advertising posts in national and local media because recruits are better matched to jobs”.

Mr Coaker said: “This is a watershed in how schools recruit staff.

“Too often recruiting staff takes up far too much time and is a costly, long-winded process. This harnesses innovative online technology to make it a painless, speedy and more cost efficient exercise.”