If you're a primary trainee looking for your first job this September, you should start thinking about getting those applications in now. It may only be March, but already local education authority recruitment pools are reporting higher than average levels of interest compared with this time last year from students looking for jobs.
And experts have warned that primary jobs could be hard to come by for this September because of falling rolls - even though the introduction of planning, preparation and assessment next year, and a high proportion of retirements should mean at least a 10 per cent rise in demand for new teachers.
The best measure of what is happening in the jobs market, they believe, is reflected in activity in local authority pools.
Kelvin Wilson, recruitment manager with Redbridge, north-east London, said there had already been a "dramatic increase" in level of interest from trainees on the same time last year. "We have already had 77 applications, which is a 50 per cent increase on 2004. There are many more NQTs out there and they are starting their job hunting earlier because there are fewer opportunities.
"We have filled five or six vacancies for September already, which is very early given that things don't normally start moving until around Easter when schools start to receive resignations."
Mr Wilson said Redbridge effectively acts as a middle-man for schools: prospective teachers are interviewed, then the names of successful interviewees are put into the pool for schools to look at when vacancies arise.
Candidates who arouse interest are then interviewed a second time by schools.
Mr Wilson said about 75 per cent of young teachers looking for a job in Redbridge primary schools get their break through the pool. The rest deal directly with schools.
"There were a lot of late applications, around July, last year in many authorities, and some of our neighbouring boroughs, including Kent and Tower Hamlets, had to close theirs to new applications because the pools were full.
"So the advice really is: if you want to work in a certain area, get in there early with your application."
Recruitment expert John Howson, The TES columnist who carries out studies into employment patterns in the teaching profession, said: "The workload agreement giving teachers 10 per cent time for planning, preparation and assessment should mean logically that schools will be looking for the same proportion of staff to fill in to ensure that classes are adequately covered.
"However," he added, "there is a suspicion that most will get around this by merging classes or using higher level teaching assistants to take lessons.
"The other highly significant factor is falling rolls and a reduction in demand for primary teachers. We expect many NQTs to experience problems finding jobs."
Mr Howson added that an analysis of primary job advertisements in The TES two weeks ago showed 277 vacancies - up from 264 in the same week a year ago.
"These are jobs advertised by schools who want to recruit directly and not through pools. There are about 200,000 primary teachers, so a rise of 13 may not seem that significant. However, at this (NQT) level most new teachers get their job through the pool system."