Whenever there is a teacher-shortage problem the spotlight is directed at recruitment. But the issues of teacher retention and return from the pool of inactive teachers also have to be addressed. And we have to recognise that particular regional factors are at play.
The report by Michael Heafford and Brenda Jennison on teachers who leave the profession (TES, Research Focus, September 25) highlights the need for studies into teachers' career patterns. We are currently beginning just such a study - funded by the Teacher Training Agency - in a sample of six London boroughs.
The Teacher Supply and Demand Modelling paper, published by the Department for Education and Employment in July, ignores regional factors. It assumes that by and large the supply of teachers will spread out across the country to find its own level, like water filling the crevices in a floor.
But the capital does have special teacher-supply problems and the pattern of movement is different from the rest of the country: 42 per cent of those appointed to their first teaching posts in Inner London in 1984 had left by 1989. And 24 per cent of those appointed in 1987 left within two years.
Heafford and Jennison reported on their work with Cambridge postgraduate certificate in education students who graduated in 1978. While their experience was that recruitment was from a wide geographical area, and that first teaching posts were found over an almost equally wide area, our experience at the University of North London is that recruitment in the inner-city institutions is much more localised, and that our graduates take up posts almost exclusively within the London area.
Institutions vary widely in the extent to which they are regional or national in character: a survey of primary initial teacher-training courses we conducted in 1990 showed that no course recruited less than 35 per cent of its students from the region in which the institution was located, and some courses recruited as much as 92 per cent from the local region.
At North London we have consistently found that more than 90 per cent of our students are recruited from within 30km of the university, and that for 10 years more than 90 per cent of graduates have obtained state-sector teaching posts. Generally, well over 90 per cent of these are in the London region.
Over the next year we will be working with six very varied London boroughs (Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Islington, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest) to build up a detailed picture of the career routes and career decisions of teachers in all the schools in those boroughs. As well as charting the employment histories of all the teachers in these boroughs we will be seeking the views of those leaving or starting jobs.
This is the first time that extensive, detailed work of this kind has been done and we hope that an accurate predictive model which may have much wider applicability across London will emerge from the study. Such a model would enable boroughs to improve their recruitment strategies and to increase their ability to retain successful teachers.
It is also intended that the work will provide a secure basis for policy development for the TTA and others who want to improve the match between demand and supply and address teacher shortages in geographical areas.
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