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Latest edition is big news

This week's Times Educational Supplement, with more than 9,000 job advertisments, is Britain's biggest-ever newspaper.

But recruitment expert John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes university, said it is unlikely that the massive edition is due to a similar crisis in teaching vacancies which led to an eight-section paper in April 2001.

The peak, he believes, may be due to a continuing high number of senior posts becoming vacant plus a surge in demand for classroom teachers bunched between the finalising of school budgets in April and half-term in June.

This week's 10-section newspaper contains 784 pages, although readers in Scotland will break through the 800-page barrier on account of the 20-page TES Scotland Plus supplement.

Professor Howson said: "The first three months were very sluggish for classroom teacher advertisements, but there may now be a bunching of vacancies because people waited to see what their budgets would be."

So far, this year has seen almost the highest number of vacant headships since 1997. This rise is thought to be due to heads taking early retirement as a result of continuing problems with workload.

A recent report by the National Union of Teachers found that some heads had taken on more work since the introduction of the workload agreement in September 2003 in order to relieve the burden on their staff. There were 1,289 headships advertised in the first 16 weeks of the year, an 11 per cent increase on 2003.

Bob Doe, editor of The TES, said: "It will be a few weeks before we know if this is an extraordinary bunching of vacancies or whether it is signalling a return to the recruitment problems of two years ago.

"All six advertising sections are printed on recycled paper so no trees were harmed in producing them all. Timing in recruitment is vital. We have been working round the clock this week to ensure every advertisement received before the deadline appears in print and on our website. I doubt many other organisations could handle this volume."

In April 2001, the high number of vacancies were the result of a combination of retirements and resignations with an already record number of unfilled teaching posts. Figures showed that vacancies in England had increased by more than 70 per cent in the year to January 2001 - from 2,780 to 4,980. But by January 2003, the most recent data available, vacancies had dropped to 3,410.

* The New York Times on Sunday September 14, 1987 was the largest-ever paper published. It contained 1,612 pages and weighed more than 12lb.

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