More recruits equals extra competition for teachers

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The Independent Online

Don't let the teacher recruitment posters lull you into thinking that it'll be easy to get a job for September. The market is complex, with regional, subject and phase variations. Those pictures of enthralled learners are there to entice people to become maths and science teachers, and it's been working well since the credit crunch started. "Enquiries to our website are up 49 per cent, year on year," says Graham Holley, of the Training and Development Agency for schools (TDA). "Maths applications are increasing at a faster rate than any other subject."

This is fantastic news but if you're a new teacher it will mean more competition for jobs. It's hard to say how the economic situation will affect the job market for new teachers. In the past a sizeable number of people who gained qualified teacher status did not go straight into teaching. The latest statistics from the Department for Children, Schools and Families show that 23.5 per cent of teachers weren't teaching in the country eight months after qualifying in 2006. But who knows what the picture will be for the class of 2009? My guess is that a much higher percentage of people will try to get work as teachers, to avoid the uncertainty that other sectors face in the growing recession.

Head teachers are worried about the impact that the recession and a possible change of government might have on their budgets. Education has fared very well. Even with falling rolls, the number of full-time equivalent teachers in state schools rose by 0.4 per cent in 2008 to reach 441,200. But how long will this investment last?

The falling birth rate has affected primary school rolls badly: there are 372,380 fewer primary age children in England than in 1999. This has made it hard for new primary teachers to get work over the past few years, especially in the South-west. But the trend is changing. Kelvin Wilson, the teacher recruitment manager in Redbridge, east London, boasts an expanding primary population and two new schools to staff. "Key stage two teachers are particularly in short supply," he says.

The birth rate is now taking its toll in secondary schools: there are 55,000 fewer secondary aged students since 2002. Talking to local authorities, it looks as though there'll be plenty of jobs for secondary English teachers everywhere, yet Graham Holley, chief executive of the TDA, says: "English teacher supply is booming. Our recruitment activity at national level has been so successful that we no longer need to regard English as a shortage subject."

Maths and science teachers are still in short supply, so people qualified in those subjects should be able to snap up jobs as well as getting Golden Hellos of £5,000. Teachers of other secondary subjects will need to work harder.

The job market varies across the UK. Professor John Howson, of Education Data Surveys at TSL Education Ltd, says that 18 of the 20 authorities with the highest percentages of new teachers last year were in London; the other two were Luton, Bedfordshire, and Sandwell in the West Midlands. Among the authorities with the lowest percentages, seven were in the North- east.

Certainly, the independent school sector doesn't look like a safe haven. The recession may force some private schools to cut jobs or close as growing numbers of parents decide not to pay for what they can get free. On the other hand new teachers are great value for money and as Dr Jennifer Longhurst, a recently retired independent school head, says, they've got all the latest teaching ideas at the tip of their fingers, and can throw a fresh light on things.

Applying to local authority pools in the next few weeks is a good way to get an early post, especially in primary schools, but you need to invest effort into making a strong impression on your application form. Sue Thomas, Oxfordshire's teacher recruitment strategy manager, is shocked at how unaware new teachers are about how hard they will need to work to land a job. "Personal statements that don't mention children are the first to go," she says.

Dave Coram, of Lambeth's recruitment team, recommends following instructions to the letter, addressing every point in the job specification clearly and remembering to include a short covering note. But in your effort to write a winning application don't fall into the trap of copying other people's phrases. "Sooner or later, two people with shared sentences will apply for the same job," says Dr Longhurst. "Disaster!"

Sara Bubb's (www.sarabubb.com) book 'Successful Induction for New Teachers' is published by Sage, £18.99.

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