Head stunned by response to job advert calls for fairer system to help NQTs start careers. George Wright reports.
The head of a Newport primary school that received more than 200 applications for a teaching post has called for a "fairer" newly-qualified teacher (NQT) induction regime in response to the increasingly competitive job market.
Jeff Eynon, of Pentrepoeth primary, Bassaleg, said he was "stunned" to receive 217 replies to an advertisement, placed earlier this year on the Newport city council internet site, for a Year 3 post starting September 2004.
He estimates that around 75 per cent of the applicants were NQTs - including some who graduated in 2003 and were still seeking permanent posts.
While any headteacher would be satisfied with such an overwhelming response, Mr Eynon, who shortlisted five "excellent" teachers before appointing, said it also highlighted the worrying situation facing many teachers trying to pin down their first jobs.
He told The TES: "We placed the advert so early in the year that we got both recent NQTs and those in the final stages of teacher training. I knew it was optimum timing and I was expecting in excess of 100 replies, but I certainly wasn't expecting 217.
"Speaking to colleagues at other local schools, I found that as the weeks went on the numbers of applications for posts dropped. In May, heads I spoke to were still getting 170 applicants, in June it was more like 70.
But that is still a high number - and it means 69 still haven't got a job."
Mr Eynon said that a number of factors - such as the school's proximity to the M4, the fact that the post appealed to both key stage 1 and KS2 teachers and did not require a specialism - meant it was bound to attract the broadest possible field.
However, it also showed just how intense the scramble for jobs in Wales has become, especially among NQTs desperate to complete their induction year.
The level of experience among the applicants ranged from NQTs to those with three years in a classroom. But, Mr Eynon added, because the lack of jobs had snowballed in recent years, there were many NQTs who had graduated in 2003 and had still not found a permanent job.
"With primary school rolls dropping across the country, the overall number of teachers is also dropping. What we have now is a situation where, through no fault of their own, NQTs cannot fulfil the rigorous induction guidelines.
"I feel great sympathy for them and I think the Welsh Assembly needs to act quickly on this area.
"There is no point simply cutting teacher-training posts, in my view, because pupils numbers are always in flux and could soon be going up again.
So we may just find ourselves with teacher shortages in three years'
The main problem, he says, is that the current guidelines really only work if every NQT can be guaranteed an induction year at a school - and that is definitely not happening.
But Mr Eynon is unconvinced that introducing guaranteed induction years, proposed by teacher unions as a way of solving the NQT induction crisis at the same time as supporting workforce reforms, is the way forward.
"There is a possible combined solution but I think it might be difficult because it would cost a lot.
"Also, every school has to deal with the impact of workforce reforms but not every school has an NQT, so there are some instances when the two things might not fit together.
"We should avoid muddying the waters with workforce reform and deal with the issue of induction separately, and on its own merits."
At the very least, he says, there needs to be more flexibility to take the pressure off NQTs in the current climate and to create a more equitable system.
"For instance, the rule about only counting whole-term units of supply work towards the induction year should be changed," he says. "As it stands, an NQT could complete nine weeks of excellent practice at a school in a 10-week term and it wouldn't even count. That's wholly unfair."