The age of uncertainty

5th May 2000 at 01:00
YOUNG graduates still want to be teachers. Even before the Government's new recruitment drive got under way, applications from those under 24 were holding up better than applications from older graduates.

The lack of applicants so far this year from the 25-30 age-group is worrying. These are often career-switchers, who select teaching as a second career after being disillusioned with their first choice. The commitment to teaching among this age group can often be stronger than that of new graduates.

It remains to be seen whether the recently announced salaries for those on Postgraduate Certificate in Education courses will attract more applicants from these older age groups.

A more likely scenario is that the tightening labour market, especially in the service sector, is releasing relatively few workers on to the job market. The low level of redundancies means fewer workers are considering a change of career.

Indeed, the very success of the new knowledge-based economy poses a challenge t teacher recruiters. For, if fewer of this year's trainees are to come from those already in the labour force, even more must come from the graduates of 2000.

In this context the latest figures for graduate unemployment make worrying reading. Unemployment among new graduates was only 5.7 per cent in 1998, the latest data available, compared with over 12 per cent earlier in the decade, when teacher-training courses had far fewer recruitment problems.

Subjects such as maths and physics have lower-than-average graduate unemployment levels, and unemployed media studies or sociology graduates may not have the subject knowledge needed to become secondary teachers.

A welcome piece of news is that, in the two weeks after the salaries' announcement, applications for secondary PGCE courses have boomed (TES, April 21).

The author is visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. E-mail: 'The low level of redundancies means

fewer are looking for a career change'

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