Dear John: Will financial meltdown mean I can't get a job next summer?

Q

I have just started a PGCE but am worried that what is happening on the financial world markets will affect my chances of getting a job next summer. I know that some local authorities have invested in Icelandic Bank and am worried that the funds of LAs who have put money in vulnerable banks could dry up. What do you think my job prospects are next year?

A.

Fortunately, the main job market for NQTS doesn’t normally open up until the New Year. Most local authorities have closing dates early in the calendar year for applications to their ‘primary pools’ and secondary schools post their largest number of vacancies in March and April, although some jobs appear earlier, and other vacancies resulting from promotion can appear right through to July.

What will happen next year is difficult to second-guess. We know that there will always be pupils who need educating and that probably around 10,000 teachers will be considering retiring next summer. Additionally, the age profile of the teaching profession means there are likely to be many temporary maternity leave vacancies in both the primary and secondary sectors next year. So, in a normal year, and assuming you were in a part of the country where training numbers did not regularly exceed vacancies, I would have said you had a good chance of getting a job.

But, these are not normal times. Teachers may postpone retirement or even bring it forward depending upon whether they feel more secure either continuing in employment or as a pensioner. Schools also have a fair idea of their budgets for next year, and we are in a three-year pay deal so that is another possible pressure out of the way, unless inflation gets so far out of hand that the deal is re-opened.

Nevertheless, we have no idea whether the present turmoil in the financial markets will affect school budgets. Although the figures for local authority deposits with overseas banks being talked about at present seem large, they still represent only a small proportion of the budgets of the many types of council who run schools. But, any decision on the future of cash reserves held by schools in affected councils would be an interesting development. You can be sure that we will be watching developments closely to try to identify any implications for the job market.

Over in the independent sector, the future is even more difficult to call. Schools will be cash rich at this moment in time having received the autumn term fee income. They will need that cash to pay out future salaries for the rest of this term. Future job opportunities will depend upon keeping up pupil numbers. In the past, these have been under pressure in some schools during times of economic hardship. However, an education at a school in the UK has become an export business, and with the pound having fallen sharply in recent weeks, schooling may be looking attractive to more potential pupils and this can offer opportunities to many schools.

In summary, don’t worry but you are right to keep an eye on what is happening. You can be sure that we will also be doing so.

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, includinga period as chief government adviser. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University and hostof our Career Clinic where you can post your questions to him.