A very good year for call centres

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
Many newly qualified teachers are still struggling to find jobs this September - jobs in schools, that is. This year's call-centre cohort may be the best-trained ever (page 1).

Sadly this week's headlines were as predictable as they were avoidable. The result is disastrous for talented and enthusiastic recruits frustrated at the threshold of their careers but also bad news for schools which need to increase their share of the brightest and best graduates.

The main problems may be in primary where training numbers are up and pupil numbers down. But the dismal headlines also remind would-be secondary trainees that going into teaching involves a risk. The extra training and debts do not guarantee a job - or necessarily allow you to live where you want. Workforce remodelling with increased spending on assistants has also reduced the opportunities for new teachers. Even supply work is likely to be harder to find this year.

This bad news could cancel out much of the effect of the new pound;24 million recruitment advertisement campaign (page 9). And yet the position could be rapidly reversed again as the disproportionate numbers of 50-somethings in staffrooms retire en masse creating another staffing crisis. The education service cannot afford to squander its newest recruits in this way.

The Department for Education and Skills, whose job it is to ensure a steady supply of good teachers, seems to regard them as a commodity that can be turned on and off like a tap; a product that can be made now and stored away until needed, like longlife milk.

That might have worked once, when the demands of the job were less and there was a pool of married women returners to draw on. But with many young graduates now regarding the profession as a staging post rather than a lifelong career (page 12), newly trained and spurned teachers may well prove a more perishable product as they look elsewhere for employers who value commitment.

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