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On the map - Teacher numbers - Support staff increasingly prop up the sector

More than 800,000 people work in England's state-funded schools, and that does not include the contractors who clean, cut the grass or serve the meals - or the lollipop people who see pupils across the road.

Of the total employed directly in schools, some 447,000 are teachers, 194,000 are teaching assistants of various kinds, and the other 168,000 are support staff keeping the school running.

As this map shows, over the past five years, teacher numbers have either barely risen - or, in some areas, actually declined - while the number of support staff has increased by over a third.

In some cases, such as London and the East of England, they have gone up by 40 per cent or more.

The greatest decline in teacher numbers has been in the north of England, where in both the North East and North West government regions there were 4 per cent fewer teachers employed in January 2010 than in January 2005. Much of this decline is the result of falling rolls. A continuation of this trend will see pupil numbers decline by as much as 12 per cent in secondary schools in parts of the North East by 2015.

By contrast, rising birth rates, plus inward migration, have caused school rolls to rise in London and the surrounding Home Counties, resulting in some parents struggling to get their children into their local schools.

More of this is yet to come in the primary sector in the South as the baby boom generation head for nursery class and then primary school over the next few years.

But the key question for now is who will lose their job in the coming age of austerity: teachers, teaching assistants or support staff? With secondary schools likely to bear the brunt of the cuts, my bet is that teacher jobs will not be spared and class sizes will increase.

Whether this will precipitate another teacher supply crisis is too early to tell, but should the job market in London recover by 2012, teacher supply problems by 2014 would not surprise me, especially if tuition fees for teacher training courses reached #163;10,000.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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