The April 18 issue of The TES carried 251 pages of advertisements. Finding a job in teaching has always been something of a marathon, but in the current situation simply reading the advertisements requires skill and concentration and takes a couple of hours.
The situation isn't helped by the idiosyncratic way some schools advertise their vacancies. Some posts are advertised by LEA, some by school block ads. Some schools choose text-only ads on cost grounds and others seem compelled to cram as much extraneous detail as possible into the space. Home economics jobs are tucked away in block advertisements for senior teachers and detailed study of the paper is necessary if all the possible posts are to be considered.
For the newly qualified teachers looking for a first teaching post in September it's a question of where to start and what to look for. Not all common pay spine (CPS) jobs are open to NQTs, but most are and the April 18 issue carried more than 1,600 jobs for new entrants to consider.
For the secondary scientist looking for work in London or the South-east the world is your oyster. One in six secondary jobs advertised are for scientists and nearly half of all vacancies for NQTs are in the South-east.
Those looking for work in Wales or the South-west will have less choice, with less than 10 per cent of the total vacancies and only one primary post available in the whole of Wales.
Changes in the national curriculum are reflected in the figures. Sir Ron Dearing's reforms made geography and history optional at key stage 4 and the vacancies suggest that schools have de-emphasised these subjects correspondingly. Religious education on the other hand is a rising star with 5 per cent of vacancies. In the primary sector the nursery vouchers scheme appears to have increased demand for early years teachers with many schools advertising the existence of new nursery units.
The figures show one development is the decline of the fixed-term contract. Only 6 per cent of posts were advertised as fixed term and most of those were to cover maternity leave or leave of absence. The teaching unions have welcomed this trend, which they see as a result of schools' increasing awareness of employment law. The NUT advises NQTs not to consider a fixed-term contract unless it fits in with their own employment plans.
Headteachers looking to fill posts for the autumn term had mixed views about the vacancy situation. Philip Gurney is head of Freshbrook Primary School in Swindon. He needs three new teachers, two to replace staff who have left and one new post in the nursery. The school's advertisement said the jobs were "too good an opportunity to miss" and response so far has been good. He believes that it is easier to get teachers this year than it was in the past.
"At the moment I don't see a significant problem." He is concerned about the future, and comments: "There is something wrong with the system if there are thousands of job adverts in The TES."
This point is taken up by Roger Sheffield, head of Langley Park Boys' School in Beckenham. Roger has several posts to fill and is confident of a good range of applicants for the senior posts.
But he says that he was "very much more concerned about recruitment at the bottom end". He feels the huge numbers of heads and deputies leaving the profession "should be setting alarm bells clanging. Why are these people leaving?" Mr Sheffield's concern is that the negative publicity the profession has attracted, which is "largely due to irresponsible statements by politicians in general and (chief inspector) Chris Woodhead in particular," will discourage young people from considering teaching as a career.