Full steam ahead for part-timers

17th February 1995 at 00:00
The typical school staffroom has changed dramatically this decade, containing far more part-timers and non-teaching staff, as a result of local management.

Since 1989 there has been a 26 per cent increase in the numbers of part-time teachers, a 3 per cent decrease in full-time staff and a 36 per cent increase in ancillary staff. In the past year there has been a 0.2 per cent increase in the number of full-time equivalent teachers though pupil numbers increased by 2 per cent. Over the same period the number of non-teaching staff increased at a faster rate; an increase of 13 per cent in primaries and 5 per cent in secondaries.

Part-time staff now represent 7 per cent of the workforce, compared with 4.1 per cent in 1984. The review body believes this is a healthy position providing "welcome flexibility".

But Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, takes issue. He said: "The teaching profession is following what is happening elsewhere in the labour market; a move to part-time and short-term contracts for a predominantly cheap and female workforce. This has profound implications for equal opportunities. It may imply flexibility, but it can also mean a lack of continuity.

"I am also not convinced that taking on more administrative staff is a sign of efficiency. Surely in many cases these people are doing jobs that were originally done by the local education authority."

According to an Office for Standards in Education survey 52 per cent of part-timers had short-term contracts, generally for one term or a year. The review noted the teacher unions' concerns about this lack of job security, but claimed it increased flexibility.

The profession is two-thirds female - a proportion that has been increasing - with women accounting for 80 per cent of teachers in primary schools and roughly half in secondaries.

The review body looked at how teachers'earnings compared with other non-manual employees and discovered that both men and women are paid more than the average for this group, with males earning more than female teachers.

Projections of pupil numbers show a steady increase into the next century, implying a steady rise in demand for teachers (see table). The review body, however, is satisfied that, at least in the medium term, teacher shortages will not be a problem.

In recommending a pay rise roughly in line with the movement in retail prices, however, it warns of the need to avoid "the re-emergence of difficulties which have been experienced in the past when opportunities for graduates have been more favourable".

Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Employment and Education Studies at Manchester University, said it may be more difficult to calculate the future demand for teachers because of the greater variety of routes into the job, including school-based training.

He said: "The output of graduates in shortage subjects such as physics and mathematics is not getting better as far as teaching is concerned."

The teacher unions and governors say, however, it does not matter how many would-be teachers are in the system if schools cannot pay for them.

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