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Decoding the mixed messages

NQTs still seeking a post are in a lively job market. Harvey McGavin reports. While redundancies, rising class sizes and strike ballots were making the headlines, the classifieds told a different story. Last week, The TES Appointments section weighed in with a hefty and unprecedented 204 pages of job adverts. Although the post-Easter weeks are traditionally the busiest time for job hunters and advertisers alike, this was half as much again as the previous record. So what is behind this apparent glut of jobs?

A quick survey of the primary vacancies on offer reveals that of 200 advertised posts, just over half (110) invited applications from newly qualified teachers but only a handful of these were aimed exclusively at newly qualified teachers. The remaining vacancies stipulated experience, making them unsuitable for first jobbers.

But opportunities for NQTs may be even greater than these figures suggest. One local authority told The TES that it actively discourages schools from asking for NQTs by name because of complaints from more experienced teachers who felt they were being discriminated against. Instead, their coded adverts now request "energetic" or "enthusiastic" teachers!

A still lively job market can only be good news for NQTs who have left it too late to take advantage of pool recruitment. In most authorities which operate a pooling system for primary teachers, the deadline for applications passed in February or March.

Even accounting for the fact that students often write to more than one authority to maximise their chances, applicants outnumbered available posts by as many as ten to one.

"Compared with last year, there seem to be a lot more NQTs around who have not applied for pools and have missed the boat," said Rowena Maton of Brent Council's teacher recruitment section, which received 750 applications, drew up a shortlist of 130 and expects to appoint about 60 NQTs.

While inclusion in a pool may not carry any guarantee of a job, it greatly increases your chances. But most areas which recruit from pre-selected candidates will also advertise one-off positions and accept general applications at any time.

Perhaps surprisingly, many areas reported vacancy levels virtually unchanged from last year. However, there was a noticeable increase in the number of temporary posts, a trend which many education personnel officers put down to uncertainty over future financial provisions, despite Gillian Shephard's recent hints at more money for education next year. "There's no telling," said Ken Taylor, teacher recruitment officer for Suffolk, "but I expect us to appoint slightly fewer teachers than in previous years given the budget situation. "

In Cambridgeshire, Maureen Cooper of Education Personnel Management, the company which handles staff recruitment for the county council, said they were advertising some 30 vacancies a week. However, the commonly held view that NVQs represent a cash saving for schools did not always hold true, she added, and some places were finding that funding criteria actually worked against schools with a high percentage of newly qualified teachers.

One possibility for graduates who are still looking for their first teaching post is that even in places which are not looking to appoint a large number of NQTs, the knock-on effect of retirements and promotions could create openings for college leavers closer to the beginning of term. In Cornwall, for example, they estimate that some 50 jobs could be created in this way.

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