SCHOOLS IN England and Wales are entering a "golden period" of teacher recruitment in which they can pick and choose teachers, even in some shortage subjects, according to the country's leading education market recruitment specialist.
But the overall buoyant picture is bad news for some newly qualified teachers and experienced returners who face stiff competition for jobs, particularly in the north of England where the workforce is shrinking fastest alongside pupil numbers, says John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys.
Writing in today's TES, Professor Howson argues that schools are better staffed now than they have been for a generation. But he warns that many schools have hidden vacancies because some staff are teaching subjects in which they are not specialists.
"But what's good news for schools is bad news for many trainees looking for their first teaching post," he says. "Many newcomers are being forced to move to other parts of the country to find jobs."
Some newly qualified teachers in parts of the North are having to compete with more than 100 others for the same post, despite being paid bursaries of up to pound;9,000 to train to teach shortage subjects such as modern languages, or up to pound;6,000 to train to teach in primary schools.
Research shows low numbers of nationally advertised secondary teaching jobs in the North, Yorkshire and the Midlands. The secondary teaching workforce fell by 2.3 per cent to 98,300 in the northern half of England and only 6.6 per cent of jobs were advertised to classroom teachers.
In the southern half of the country, where the population is growing because of internal and external migration, the teaching workforce increased by 3.6 per cent to 98,000; 8 per cent of jobs were advertised to teachers.
A past fall in the birth rate has reduced overall school rolls by about 100,000 to 7.3 million this year, according to the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The downturn, which has been affecting primary rolls, has now spread into secondaries.
This year, according to government actuary projections, reception teachers will see their class sizes start to increase again.
Graham Holley, chief executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools, said the recruitment crisis of six or seven years ago had been replaced with "healthy competition".
"It is not for us to find people jobs," he said. "It is down to individual trainees and teachers to research the opportunities available, as it is for newly trained lawyers and architects who are looking for work. It may not always be possible for teachers to find employment in their first area of choice, so it will be in their interests to look further afield."
Professor Howson says that some teaching graduates are entitled to feel hard done by. "Their recruitment to teacher training didn't come with a health warning," he adds.
Sara Bubb, an expert in induction of new teachers at London University's Institute of Education, said teachers should be willing to follow jobs around the country.
North-south divide, page 9
John Howson, page 15