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The 2010 education job market

Is the job market bad, really bad or just plain horrendous? Education employment expert Professor John Howson casts light on the situation

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Is the job market bad, really bad or just plain horrendous? Education employment expert Professor John Howson casts light on the situation

Original paper headline: Wheel of fortune

Finding a first post is a nerve-racking experience for an increasing number of newly qualified teachers (NQTs). This year around 30,000 trainees will compete with existing teachers looking to change schools or return after a career break.

Last January, we commented that "for all job seekers the falling rolls affecting secondary schools and the limited increase in primary school rolls will be the main factors affecting job opportunities", and so it proved to be, with significantly fewer teaching jobs in some parts of the country and some subjects than in the previous recruitment round.

This year, we continue to be concerned that there will not be enough jobs for all trainees despite the fact the number of students on many secondary courses has been reduced from last year to compensate for the effects of falling school rolls.

However, within the overall market for new teachers, there is a complex set of regional and subject markets that will affect job seekers in radically different ways.

Looking first at those seeking a post in the primary sector, the main growth in job opportunities is likely to be at the bottom of the age range as the effects of the increase in the birth rate begin to be felt by schools in some areas, most noticeably parts of London and the South East. However, this growth will be offset by the fact that almost all three and four-year-olds who can be are already in schools, so there is little more growth in jobs to come from that initiative.

An unknown factor at present is whether there will be any change in the balance of support staff to teachers in primary schools. The number of teaching assistants (TAs) and higher-level teaching assistants has increased significantly over the past few years. However, there are those who now question whether employing extra teachers might improve standards more than the present balance between teachers and TAs.

An additional factor affecting the primary sector, especially in parts of southern England, is the problem some parents have encountered in paying school fees as the recession and rising unemployment has affected incomes. In theory, this should be a zero-sum game with any losses in the private sector being balanced by growth in state school numbers. But, with classes being larger in the state sector, there is not a direct transfer of resources.

In the secondary sector, the position is more complicated. First, school rolls are still falling in many parts of the country. Second, although teacher training numbers have been reduced, some subjects are recruiting up to their new targets, so there will be more trainees looking for teaching jobs. Finally, decisions about public expenditure are likely to impact more on secondary schools than other parts of the system.

Schools with no reserves only have to see pupil numbers fall by as few as 10 before they need to consider cutting a post, either by not replacing a teacher who leaves or by making a member of staff redundant. If a school operates a "last in, first out" policy, this is an even more important consideration.

Although some schools operate a local policy to offer alternative posts to redundant teachers, this is not a requirement, and with many more academies, trust and foundation schools around some schools will be reluctant to participate in such schemes.

Trainees in subjects such as English, mathematics, physics and chemistry are likely to have the easiest time this year, whereas those looking for history, drama, art and posts in some languages, especially in the north of England, are most likely to face the hardest challenges, and are advised to cast their nets as wide as possible.

For all applicants, the advice is clear: do not expect to find your dream job just down the road from where you live. Apply early, as there are likely to be few jobs on offer after the end of April, and look for jobs where knowledge of more than one subject is required. These posts can be advertised in almost any section of The TES and may only be picked up by the most sophisticated new search tools such as email alerts. Sometimes, browsing the paper or is the only way to spot such jobs. For those on courses such as citizenship, this may be by far the best way of finding a teaching post.

Although trainees are on a course with a specific subject or phase definition, qualified teacher status (QTS) allows new teachers to teach anything to anyone within the school sector. Unhappily, those training for the post-compulsory sector do not have entry to schools unless their course confers QTS on them.

Finally, although the market is going to be tough again this year, do remember that you are interviewing schools as much as they are interviewing you. If you feel uneasy at interview, consider whether this is a school where you want to spend your vital induction year.

Despite all the potential problems, there should still be many teaching jobs around this year, unless some post-election crisis in government funding creates unforeseen problems. So, good luck with the job hunting, and start early.


Be realistic

Ask yourself some tough questions. Are you tied to one area, or are you willing to travel or even move? Would you be happy working in a faith school? Does the thought of teaching in a challenging school fire you up or leave you cold? What are your deal breakers? Once you've created your wishlist, it's time to inject some realism. If you've got your heart set on an outstanding primary school in the rural north west you're going to have to go all out on your applications. Have a plan B or at least some areas you're willing to compromise on.

Don't carpet bomb

Increasing the number of applications you do doesn't increase your chances of getting a job by the same amount. In fact, probably the reverse is true. It takes time to put together a good application that will be taken seriously. Don't scrimp on this part of the job-seeking process. Make sure you allocate enough time for each application and thoroughly check your work. Read the features on pages 10, 14 and 18 for advice.

Do your homework

Make sure the school is right for you. Look at the website; does the school's ethos echo yours? Work out your commute. If you're limited to public transport, will you be able to get there? Will you have to move? What are the accommodation options? Has one of your fellow trainees been to this school? This preparation will pay off when you get to the interview stage, as headteachers we surveyed said the biggest area where candidates fell down was lack of preparation.

Get your details online

Make sure you sign up to get alerts from TES Connect so the web is doing some of the hard work for you. You can specify types of positions, locations, subjects, keywords and frequency. Once you register with TES HireWire you won't have to fill in your basic details again and again.

Search regularly

New jobs are uploaded daily to TES Connect, and printed weekly in The TES, TES Cymru and The TESS. Keep on top of the applications and do some each week so you're not rushing at the 11th hour. Use the TES Calendar on page 28 to help you keep track of deadlines and interview dates as well as publication dates for The TES.

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