Primary jobs in freefall

Graeme Paton, Fran Abrams & Charles Heymann

Trainees scrabble for posts as supply starts to outstrip demand, report Graeme Paton, Fran Abrams and Charles Heymann

More than a quarter of new primary teachers have yet to secure permanent work, a survey by The TES has revealed.

Preliminary figures for 1,475 primary trainees in England and Wales who completed training courses this summer revealed that just 1,083 had found permanent posts in schools.

A jobseeker from Swansea claims to have faced competition from up to 300 applicants for the most sought-after positions.

The National Union of Teachers Cymru says only a quarter of the 1,150 trainees who completed primary courses in Wales in 2003 found jobs. New secondary teachers also faced a struggle, with half failing to find work, it says.

NUT Cymru secretary Gethin Lewis this week called for the Welsh Assembly, which has already announced a major review of training provision, to guarantee new teachers a job, enabling them to complete their statutory induction year.

He said: "We fear the situation for September 2004 is worse."

Welsh primaries lost 4,700 pupils during 2003, according to Assembly government statistics released this week.

The number of primary posts increased slightly from 14,045 to 14,060. But only 552 posts fell vacant - with each receiving an average of 19 applications.

The General Teaching Council for Wales says the rise in applicants for primary jobs is good news for schools. But it is concerned about the shortage of candidates for secondary subjects - particularly Welsh, science and RE, which attracted fewer than six applicants per vacancy.

But Gary Brace, GTCW chief executive, added: "With concerns about the number of primary teaching posts available for NQTs, we need to ensure that teacher-training targets are more closely matched with our needs than at present, perhaps by focusing on shortage areas in secondary education."

The TES phoned 60 teacher-training institutions and a number reported significant downturns in the jobs market, especially for primary teachers.

At nine colleges with up-to-date figures, 392 out of 1,475 trainees had been left without a job.

The outlook is more positive for new secondary school teachers, with colleges saying as many as 95 per cent have found positions.

Ian Russell, 22, has been forced to look for work in a call centre despite graduating as a primary teacher from Swansea university. He said he applied for more than 20 jobs nearby without success.

"I've always wanted to teach but there is nothing out there, some jobs I've gone for were getting 200 or 300 applications," he said.

Despite this, the number of primary teacher-training places will increase by around 7 per cent this month for England and Wales to 16,300. It comes as the Government anticipates the effect of the workload agreement and a peak in people retiring by 2007.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly government said its review of ITT provision would consider "how intake targets, courses and course availability can deliver teachers with QTS to better meet the needs of maintained schools in Wales".

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Graeme Paton, Fran Abrams & Charles Heymann

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