Jobs for the class of 1999 should be easier to find than for some years. More cash devolved to schools under "Fair Funding" arrangements, plus other grants mean that many school budgets are not as strained as in recent years. As ever, there are winners and losers. There are reports that some former grant-maintained schools have suffered budget cuts on their return to a locally based funding model. These schools won't be hiring staff and some may even be making existing staff redundant.
On the other hand, there are schools that have benefited from successful bids to the Standards Fund in its many different guises.
In the primary sector, early years specialists are likely to be in demand as the Government continues to fund the drive to reduce class sizes of five to seven-year-olds to fewer than 30 pupils. In January this year, two LEAs still had average infant class sizes at or above 30 pupils, according to provisional figures released last month by the Government. Nationally, there were still almost 11,000 infant classes with 31 or more pupils this January. Most of these large classes were in outer London, or other urban areas of England. So there are still more jobs to come.
At key stage 2, average class sizes this year were higher than in 1998, and more than one third of classes had 31 or more pupils in them. It is less likely that new jobs here will be created through extra funding, so much will depend on the rate of turnover among existing teachers. This is likely to be highest in London and the South-east, and lowest in the North.
In the secondary sector, budgets may be tighter, but in many subjects there are fewer new teachers seeking jobs than last year. Recruitment to PGCE courses in England graduating this summer was 8 per cent down on last year's levels. Only English, drama and art courses recruited more students than last year, and in each case it was only a very small increase.
With maths recruitment down 23 per cent, and at its lowest for more than a decade, many of the 1,100 or so students will already have found jobs. In the past three weeks of April The TES carried more than 500 maths posts suitable for NQTs. There will be many more over the next few weeks. Among the sciences, the physicists and chemists will have plenty of jobs to choose from; biologists may find the going tougher, unless they are able to offer a second string to their bow. This year, expertise in ICT is likely to go down well at interview.
Many mature students are tied to a particular location through family commitments. Outside of the urban areas, this can hamper their chances of finding a job as much, if not more than, their perceived high cost to schools. Again, offering other expertise may be helpful. For instance, industrial or commercial contacts can help with work experience placements. Nevertheless, with the majority of the teaching force now over the age of 40, some heads will just want to try to balance the age profile in particular departments or staffrooms.
Once again, the overall message is that the more flexible and multi-skilled a new teacher is when job hunting, the more they are likely to find the job they want.
John Howson is a visiting Fellow of Oxford Brookes University, and runs Education Data Surveys. He has a regular column in The TES, called 'Hot Data' E-mail: email@example.com. Please quote reader reply No. NQT103