A STAFFING crisis is affecting an Inverclyde secondary school - with one department running with less than half the number of teachers it should.
Notre Dame High is suffering shortages of permanent and temporary staff.
The English department should have eight teachers but there are currently just three, including the principal teacher, while there have also been staffing problems in computing.
The situation is so acute that head teacher Kate Couttie, pictured, warned there would not be enough teachers on hand at Thursday's fourth year parents' evening.
In a letter sent out to mums and dads, she advised them to put their names on a waiting list, explaining the 'difficulties' facing the school.
Education bosses strongly deny there is a crisis at the school and say they are two vacancies for a permanent and temporary English teacher.
But staff, parents and pupils are said to be fed up with the situation and one accused the local authority of 'dragging its feet' on the matter.
A source told the Tele: "There is a chronic shortage of English teachers at Notre Dame.
"There are supposed to be eight but there are only three just now, including the head of department.
"Some classes have not once been taught by a dedicated English teacher.
"They get in substitutes - the head of department sets the work up for three classes in one period and then goes to his own class, who have by then missed about 20 minutes of their lesson.
"The union were in last week and the department is at crisis point.
"They've been dragging their feet putting the adverts out, as the situation has been dire since the beginning of the school year."
A new principal teacher of English has been appointed at the school and a replacement has been brought into computing.
In her letter to parents, Mrs Couttie said: "You will be aware of the difficulties we are currently experiencing in terms of replacing staff and accessing supply staff.
"Our English department has been particularly badly affected.
"We have had considerable difficulty accessing supply cover in English and still have one temporary and one permanent vacancy.
"Please accept my apologies if your son/daughter is affected by this situation and be assured that I am doing all in my power to rectify things by sourcing replacement staff."
But education chiefs have played down the problems and say Inverclyde is feeling the effects of a national teacher shortage.
A council spokesman said: "While there have been some short term staffing issues, parents should be clear that the suggestion of a crisis is a gross exaggeration.
"Lack of supply cover is a national problem, not one exclusive to Inverclyde.
"The school and staff have worked hard to support colleagues and assist pupils.
"A new principal teacher of English started just this week and the school is advertising for two positions.
"We have written to parents letting them know the position."
Union officials also blame the problems on a dearth of substitute teachers.
Paula McEwan, secretary of the Inverclyde branch of EIS, said: "The lack of supply staff is of national concern and impacts directly upon our young people.
"Notre Dame staff, management and our local authority continue to work together to resolve the supply issues experienced.
"A newly appointed PT took up post this week.
"Supply staff have been employed and two further posts are currently advertised.
"Current staff have worked beyond their contractual duties to ensure high professional standards in the teaching and learning of their pupils, demonstrating their commitment to the young people in their care."