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Q Recently you wrote a column suggesting those trying to return to teaching would struggle to find a teaching job: you advised them to look elsewhere. Surely the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) has been organising successful "returners" courses for a number of years and there must be lots of teachers who have returned to teaching through this route?

A You are quite right, and there are successful companies who have placed many returners to teaching in schools after they have taken a course to update their skills. However, according to the DfCSF, the number of both full-time and part-time returners peaked in 2001-02, when they accounted for 22 per cent of entrants to teaching. By 2005-06 returner numbers had fallen to about 5,500; as a group they accounted for 13 per cent of entrants into teaching that year. Of course, "returners" aren't a homogenous group. Probably the greatest number are the teachers who have taken a career break, but there are other teachers switching between sectors or returning from working overseas who are included in the figures. My feeling is that however valuable this group of teachers has been during teacher shortages, the current over-supply of newly qualified teachers that seems to be emerging in parts of the country means that returners should be prepared to find life more challenging than it was even a couple of years ago. I believe it is right to point this out. Of course, I would be delighted to be proved wrong, and there are schools that indicate in job adverts that they especially welcome applications from this grou *

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask him a question, email him at askjohnhowson@

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