HANDS off our teachers - that is the resounding message from education bosses in Hampshire and Southampton after a rival council launched a campaign to try to lure experienced teachers out of the county.

Kent County Council has started an audacious online campaign aimed at poaching the best education talent from Hampshire to fill gaps in its own schools, including contacting the Daily Echo to run a story on the benefits of working in the “garden of England”.

But last night bosses here insisted the county is a great place for teachers to work and criticised the initiative.

One union leader described the campaign as “bizarre” and said he believes it is destined to fail.

Kent hopes to plug its shortfall in heads and experienced teachers with the promise of career progression and is specifically targeting educators in Hampshire and other Home Counties with its campaign, which it believes “breaks the mould” of “tired” adverts.

Southampton’s National Union of Teachers representative, Pete Sopowski, said he doubts many teachers would be tempted to make the move.

He said: “I’m amazed they need to do it.

I can’t think why they can’t recruit from their own area. Maybe the grammar school system is causing problems, because it’s difficult to get people to teach in the schools left behind.

“It doesn’t work, but that discredited system is running in Kent and that’s why all of the community isn’t well served by it.

“Experienced teachers often serve their community well and most will have settled down and have families nearby and won’t want to move. It’s not worth it.”

More than 250 leadership roles at Kent schools were advertised last year and the county council believes that will rise as many heads are approaching retirement.

It signed up recruitment specialist TMP Worldwide to come up with the campaign, which offers prizes for teachers who post online their idea of a “perfect Kent day”.

The firm’s chief executive, Andrew Wilkinson, said the initiative is “a brave departure from traditional teacher recruitment” aimed at persuading qualified teachers to consider what benefits relocating to Kent could bring.

Hampshire’s education boss, Cllr Roy Perry, criticised Kent’s campaign as “overt poaching” that cannot be condoned, saying our schools face the same “national issues” as Kent.

He said: “We’re fortunate to have an excellent reputation for a high-performing system and Hampshire is a county that’s a great place to live and work, with its unspoilt countryside, vibrant cities, coastline and cultural heritage.”