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8,470 - Number of returning teachers in 2007-08

Recent data from the Department for Children, Schools and Families shows a sharp drop in the number of returners to teaching in 2007-08, the latest year for which figures are available. The 4,990 who returned full-time plus the 3,480 who started teaching again for part of the week were some 4,000 fewer than the 12,590 returners in 2000-01. The latest figures cover the year before the banking crisis and the full onslaught of the current recession, yet the size of the decline - nearly 2,000 in just one year - is perhaps a surprise.

The 3,480 part-time returners were mostly women; men totalled just 630. Curiously, the largest group were the 630 over-60s who returned to part-time teaching. The next largest group were the 580 in the 35-39 bracket, almost all women; presumably, most were combining work with raising a young family.

The pattern for full-time returners was very different: only 120 of the 4,990 were over 60. The 1,020 in the 25-29 group represented the largest single age group, and overall 40 per cent were in the 25-34 age bracket. Men accounted for a third of full-time returners in 2007-08; most of these returned to teaching in secondaries, whereas women returners were more evenly spread between primaries and secondaries.

Without the decline in returners, new teachers would have found it even more of a challenge to secure a teaching post. The fact that more than 37,000 new entrants joined the teaching profession in 2007-08 means returners accounted for fewer than one in five teaching appointments.

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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