It's a waste of time applying to areas where there are no vacancies. John Howson's index of job prospects can help you identify where to concentrate efforts
In your final year before teaching, you need to concentrate all your energies profitably; you don't want to waste valuable time and energy applying for posts that you stand little chance of gaining.
This index is based on an analysis of factors including the trend in reported vacancies in each local education authority in the region.
The regional vacancy rate is compared to:
* the national average
* the balance of primary and secondary vacancies
* turnover and wastage rates
* percentages of temporary filled posts and
* occasional teachers as a percentage of the workforce.
These factors have been weighted and converted into an index for each government region.
The scale runs from minus 10 to plus 10. The bottom classification means there is virtually no hope of any jobs for NQTs in this area. Falling pupil numbers and funding cuts mean schools are shedding teachers. New teaching jobs are few in number and there is great competition for them even in shortage subjects. Early years posts are particularly difficult to find. Some teachers opt to work as support staff.
Zero indicates a balanced market: the supply of new teachers is close to the demand. Although NQTs may not find a post at the school they want, there are posts available in most subject areas. Falling rolls, due to the decline in the birth rate, are making primary school posts more difficult to find than secondary school ones.
A 10-plus rating indicates that pupil numbers are rising and more funds are available than in the previous year. Existing teachers are retiring in large numbers or moving to other parts of the country. There will be more posts than candidates available to fill them and NQTs can afford to pick and choose even in relatively easy to fill subjects.
Finding a teaching post this summer may take more effort than in the past few years.
Rising numbers of trainees - up from 28,000 in 19992000 to more than 33,000 in England and Wales this year - will mean more competition, particularly in primary schools.
The 1,400 or so extra trainee primary teachers, over 1,000 of whom are on one-year PGCE courses, will be entering a sector already affected in many areas by declining pupil rolls.
Department for Education estimates show that the primary school population this January (2003) is some 155,000 lower than when many trainee teachers started their undergraduate courses.
Virtually all key stage 1 classes now have less than 30 pupils and most four year-olds are in school, so there is no growth in teaching posts to come from any expansion in either of these areas.
However, there is still the workload problem to be solved, and that might mean more teaching jobs, unless support staff are used instead.
Secondary school rolls are expected to peak in January 2004 so there will still be a need for more teachers this summer to meet the growth in pupil numbers. However, this is likely to be greater in London and the South East than parts of the North of England or Wales.
What events could derail the jobs market between now and the summer? The training numbers announced recently don't include 4,350 places on the employment-based routes into teaching (such as the graduate teacher programme), neither do they include the contribution from the new scheme for London secondary schools. Both these initiatives will increase the supply of entrants, particularly in the secondary sector.
However, the main question centres on the effects of government spending plans. Although last year's comprehensive spending review promised more money for education, it is how the cash is divided up that actually influences the numbers of teachers needed.
Any under-funding of the teachers' pay settlement would be particularly bad news for jobs, as would a switch to the use of more classroom support staff.
The good news for trainees is that more teachers are reaching retirement age. This is one method of job creation that will significantly increase the supply of posts over the next decade.
Additionally, if Government plans to allow workers to "wind down" to retirement take effect, and more teachers opt to work part-time in their final years, this might also increase posts on offer.
Of course, this only reflects the average position. Teaching jobs have always been easier to find in some parts of England and Wales than in others. Generally, the further north and west of London and the South East, the more competition for all teaching posts there is likely to be.
Additionally, in parts of London and the South East, there are many unqualified and overseas teachers. Their numbers may be reduced as more newly qualified teachers enter the job market.
In the end what matters to you is: will I find a teaching post when I finish training? Generally, the answer will be Yes, but perhaps not in the school of your dreams. Any lack of flexibility that restricts the posts you can apply for could mean a long search. The boom time of 2001 looks unlikely to be repeated in 2003.
John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys