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The good news is that there are more teachers in schools than there have been for many years. The bad news is that there are also more pupils, at least in the secondary sector. As with all statistics, how many more teachers there are depends upon when you start counting from and what you count as a teacher.

The number of full-time teachers in service in England rose by 1 per cent between January 1997 and this January according to provisional figures released by the Government. Part-time teachers increased by 15 per cent - at least when their service is aggregated into full-time equivalence - during the same period. The recorded number of occasional teachers rose by 42 per cent during the same period. However, the figure for teachers employed by agencies may not have been fully rflected in previous survey results, presumably leading to an undercounting in past years.

The number of instructors and unqualified teachers from overseas has risen by 74 per cent since 1997 and, at 4,000, is at its highest for many years. There are also more teachers on employment-based training routes; some 1,200 now compared with 400 in 1997. However, this number is still far short of the Government's target of several thousand trainees.

The overall rise in teacher numbers of around 4 per cent is set against a rise in the pupil population of close to 8 per cent during the same period. The failure of the two to match goes a long way to explain why secondary school class sizes deteriorated so much during the first three years of this Government.

John Howson


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