Teachers returning to the profession after a break of some years have been a godsend to many schools with hard-to-fill vacancies. However, figures recently released by the Department for Education and Employment covering the school year 1998-99 show a drop on the previous year in the number of such teachers. The number of full-time returners has provisionally been calculated at 12,600. This is the lowest number since 1983 when only 10,800 teachers returned to service. By contrast, in 1990 some 17,300 returned to full-time work in the classroom.
Even this new figure of returners must be viewed with some caution since only about 5,000 teachers were not teaching at all in the previous year, plus a small number of retired teachers who returned to full-time posts. Some 4,600 were teachers switching from part-tim to full-time teaching. The remainder were supply teachers taking full-time posts and those switching from further education colleges or special schools.
There is further disappointing news in the analysis of teachers starting part-time work. The number of returners also fell, from 4,400 to 3,700, though the number of retired teachers prepared to return to work part-time rose from 1,200 to 1,300.
The latest figures also show a drop in the number of first time entrants to teaching in 1998-99, down by more than 1,500 to 20,100. Even so, this was the third highest number of new entrants since 1983.
All these are provisional figures but they emphasise that recruitment to teacher training must remain buoyant. The Returners Cavalry Regiment is unlikely to ride to the rescue.