Older trainees are changing face of teaching

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The Independent Online

Nearly one in three trainee teachers is now aged over 30 as workers abandon other careers, according to data published by the Teacher Training Agency yesterday. It used to be the case that almost all newly qualified teachers were in their early twenties.

The rise in the numbers of mature trainee teachers has been marked in maths and modern languages, which traditionally have had problems with recruitment.

In 2003-04, the most recent year for which figures are available, 36 per cent of people starting to train as foreign-language teachers were over 30 years old. In 1998-99 the corresponding figure was 26 per cent.

In maths, the proportion of trainees over 30 is 48 per cent, a rise of 9 percentage points since 1998-99.

Graham Holley, the TTA's executive director, said: "Day-to-day job satisfaction, competitive pay and prospects, and flexible training options mean that teaching is proving an attractive career for older graduates - as well as being the top choice of career for final-year students."

The rise has been attributed to the growth of on-the-job teacher training which enables career changers to continue to earn a salary while training.

Traditionally teachers were trained in universities or colleges and would follow a one-year postgraduate training course - the PGCE or Postgraduate Certificate in Education - or a four-year Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree. Students can also take PGCEs on school-based courses but new employment-based routes now allow trainees to learn while working.

The TTA figures, which have been published annually since 1998, charted the progress of 37,578 trainees in 2003-04. Of these 32,161 had trained via conventional routes while 5,417 had trained on the job.

However, the figures also revealed that hundreds of newly qualified primary school teachers were struggling to find work. An analysis of the data by academics at the University of Buckingham found that, by this January, at least 681 of trainee teachers who had qualified in 2004 were still seeking their first position in teaching.

Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson, from Buckingham's Centre for Education and Employment Research, found that primary school trainees in the North-east, North-west and South-west were having particular difficulties in finding work, although around London more jobs were available.

Of Durham University's new primary school teachers who qualified in 2004, more than one fifth (22.3 per cent) were still seeking a teaching position six months later.

Professor Smithers said: "Overall, twice as many primary trainees as secondary trainees were recorded as still seeking posts - 5.8 per cent against 2.8 per cent."

The agency's performance profiles provide information about the teacher-training colleges as well as data on trainees' gender and qualifications and their eventual employment record in England.

The best university for teacher training was Oxford, which regained its top ranking after losing out to Cambridge last year. This year Cambridge was ranked second closely followed by Staffordshire, according to Professor Smithers' analysis.

The number of men training as teachers rose slightly in 2005 after a concerted campaign by the Teacher Training Agency, particularly in primary schools which are traditionally dominated by women.

Thirteen per cent of primary school trainees were men this year, a rise of one percentage point since 2004. Forty per cent of secondary trainees were male in 2005, an increase of three percentage points on the previous year.

The proportion of trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds showed only marginal improvement, rising by one percentage point in both primary and secondary sectors to seven and 10 per cent respectively.