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London sees rise in resignations

After falling for four years, teacher turnover nationally is on the increase again. Clare Dean looks at the statistics. Do you teach RE, music or foreign languages? Are you aged under 30 and working in London? Then you are prime resignation material.

The latest available statistics reveal that the turnover of permanent teachers is rising, particularly in the capital. The number of teachers leaving jobs in London has increased in both primary and secondary schools.

The capital's staffing situation is still much healthier than it was during the shortage crises of the Eighties. However, in Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark and Hounslow almost a quarter of the full-time male primary teachers resigned in 1994.

In Hammersmith and Fulham nearly a third of the permanent female secondary staff left, more than a quarter resigned from schools in Richmond-upon-Thames and 23 per cent from Islington.

The survey of all authorities in England and Wales by the Local Government Management Board covers 1994 and looks back to 198586.

The figures are based on a random sample of a third of primary schools and all LEA secondary schools. They include GM schools and sixth-form colleges.

They reveal turnover rates of 11 per cent across the capital compared to a national average of 8 per cent.

According to the LGMB there were 35,659 resignations of permanent and fixed-term contract teachers from local authority schools, grant-maintained schools and sixth-form colleges in 1994.

Turnover was highest in local authority schools (10 per cent) and lowest in sixth-form colleges (8 per cent). The increase was greater for female teachers than males, particularly in primary schools. The turnover of permanent LEA teachers had been falling every year since its peak of 13 per cent in 1990 (see graph).

In its report, the LGMB says the increase may be due to a slight upturn in the labour market which has encouraged teachers to change jobs, although the depressed housing market continues to make it difficult for people to move.

And it adds: "Over the 1987-1994 period teacher turnover has shown a clear tendency to reflect changes in the national labour market, rising steeply until 1989, falling until 1993 and increasing in 1994.

"It may therefore be expected that turnover will rise further if labour markets and housing markets recover."

Most of the teachers who left took up a new post in the LEA sector. Retirement, either early or for reasons of ill-health, accounted for the next highest percentage.

More than a third left for other jobs in the LEA sector, 7 per cent found non-local authority jobs in education, 3 per cent went to other jobs and 6 per cent left to have babies.

The ill-health retirement rate in grant-maintained schools was slightly lower than in LEA schools. In the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea all of the primary male teachers who resigned took early retirement.

Compared with local authority teachers, those leaving sixth-form colleges were less likely to move to an LEA post and more likely to move to jobs outside education or to retire early.

The LGMB said: "Turnover is beginning to pick up a little because we are coming out of recession. People are competing now for new graduates and we can't really compete with the short-term promotion prospects they offer. "

The School Teachers' Review Body is looking at ways of improving the pay structure in 1997 to help recruit and retain teachers in shortage subjects such as religious education.

The LGMB, however, believes that the present system is flexible enough already.

The number of full-time recruits was almost identical - 35,700 - to the number of resignations, but the picture was patchy. Recruitment was highest in GM schools (11 per cent) and lowest in sixth-form colleges (8 per cent).

The London borough of Richmond, which had the highest turnover of primary teachers, lost 18 per cent of its primary staff and recruited 11 per cent.

In another London borough, Hammersmith and Fulham, more than a quarter of teachers resigned from full-time secondary posts, but only 9 per cent were recruited. Newcastle replaced just half the number of the male primary teachers who left.

Turnover was also high among deputy heads and older teachers, the latter largely due to ill-health and premature retirement. More than a third of the resignations were retirements - but only around one in seven were at normal age.

More than half the teachers who resigned had less than two responsibility points, two-thirds of them were graduates and a third had worked in their school for three years or less.

In secondary schools, turnover has been consistently higher than average among teachers of RE and music (11 per cent), foreign languages (10 per cent) and English (9 per cent).

The most contented teachers appear to be those of computer studies and social studies. Their subjects had turnovers of only 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

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