* IN THE year 1997-98 those returning to the classroom after a career change appear to have accounted for the lowest percentage of entrants to teaching for more than 15 years, at just under 38 per cent of those entering the profession.
In 1990, returners accounted for more than 50 per cent of entrants. The latest figures show that by 1997-98 new entrants accounted for 62 per cent of all those starting teaching and 63 per cent in the secondary sector.
The Department for Education and Employment "returners" total is a composite one made up of those returning to service as teachers, those switching from part-time to full-time (and vice versa) and those moving between sectors such as special schools and maintained nursery, primary or secondary schools.
The number of teachers "out of service" who started teaching again in 1997-98, in either a full-time or a part-time post, fell (according to those provisional DFEE figures) by around 500 from 9,600 to 9,100. This figure can be compared with about 1,000 who left teaching for reasons other than retirement.
The latest decline in the number of genuine returners, to about 18 per cent of entrants, marks the continuation of a trend over recent years and may reflect the age profile of the trained teaching force, since the rate of return to teaching of those over 40 is generally lower than for younger teachers.
John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org