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The 'drop-out' teachers who dropped back in

INCLUDING teachers in special schools in its staffing calculations has helped the Department for Education and Skills put a rosier complexion on recruitment.

The special school staff boosted the annual recruitment figure by around 1,000. As few newly-qualified teachers work in special schools, the statisticians' change of practice has also affected the balance between "returners" and those new to teaching.

For the first time, this second group has been divided into those who qualified in the previous year - ie typical NQTs - and those who qualified some years earlier but did not go directly into teaching. The latter group of "late entrants" is important because their disappearance is often quoted in alarming statistics on those who qualify as teachers but then drop out. The reappearance of many "drop-outs" later gets less attention.

Judging by these provisional figures, schools were saved from a staffing crisis in 2000-1 only by a sharp increase in the number of "returners" and "late entrants". In that year, the number of new entrants was at its lowest since 1993-4. This is perhaps not surprising since the NQTs of 2000-1 included the last group of PGCEs who did not get a training grant, although they did benefit from the first "golden hellos" for maths and science graduates.

Nevertheless, the loss of 1,300 NQTs over the previous year can be directly linked to the fall in the number of students entering secondary ITT programmes in the autumn of 1999.

By contrast, the number of "late entrants" in 2000-1 seems to have reached record levels. Whether this is because of an increasing number of trainees taking gap years after qualifying, or the creation of extra teaching posts in areas where new teachers were previously unable to find work, is difficult to determine.

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys

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