Jobs market: the verdict

14th January 2011 at 00:00
Our expert on the teaching jobs market, John Howson, unravels the mystery of what is really happening to teaching vacancies

The consequences of the decisions over public spending made by the Government during the autumn term are now filtering down to individual schools. Despite the talk of school budgets being safeguarded, schools will not have sufficient cash to offer every trainee teacher a job for September. Out of the 2008 and 2009 completers, almost one in two NQTs had probably not found a job where they could start their induction year two terms after they qualified. This is largely due to the Government having to decide on training targets far in advance of the starting date for courses and an over-estimation of the demand for new teachers, since estimates were based upon levels of turnover before the recession hit in 2008.

Until the overhang of either under- or unemployed new teachers has been removed from the market, finding a job for the new teachers of 2011 will be tough. Every trainee looking for their first teaching job will need to ensure their application and supporting statement is good enough to secure them an interview. The opening paragraph of anything you write is vital.

But first, what are the general trends in recruitment for 2011? Across much of England, Wales and Scotland, secondary school pupil numbers are falling and will continue to do so until around 2015. This means that unless schools receive extra funds, teachers who leave aren't always replaced. In the primary sector, the opposite is true, with pupil numbers growing particularly in and around London. Other factors affecting schools are the Coalition's pupil premium, which will channel money towards pupils who need extra resources, and the creation of new academies and so-called `free' schools. Neither of these new types of school will provide many new jobs for teachers this year.

Subject specific

If early years teachers are likely to be in greatest demand, secondary school humanities teachers may well have to spread their search widest in the hunt for a job.

We surveyed the market for Government-funded and private school jobs. Based upon training numbers in England and Wales, and posts advertised between January and July 2010 in nearly 100 papers and websites, trainee citizenship and RE teachers will find it the most difficult. English and maths teachers are still likely to be in demand, partly because the Government has underestimated the need in parts of England. There appears to have been a shortage of art and design teachers in some places and, because of demand from private schools, history teachers in others.

Apart from changes in pupil numbers, demand for teachers is driven by how many leave the profession. Over the next few years, around 12,000 teachers will retire each year aged 60. Any significant alterations to the Teachers' Pension Scheme following the Hutton review might cause a temporary spike in the numbers retiring. This would boost demand for new teachers in the short term, but have an adverse effect in future years. Another downside for new secondary teachers is the Government's enthusiasm for Teach First. Every additional recruit to the scheme causes two teaching posts to disappear, and the same is true for expansion of the Graduate Teacher Programme.

FE and sixth-form

The news is mixed for teachers training in the FE sector (see feature, page 34) and that includes sixth-form colleges. The number of 16- to 18- years-olds is still increasing, but adult education work in non-vocational areas is still likely to be hit by cutbacks. Skills-based courses and those supporting apprenticeships are likely to be better protected.

Maximising your chances

So, apart from casting your net wide, how can you maximise your chances?

There are three stages to consider: your covering letter; the application form or a CV; and the supporting statement. There are detailed tips at as well as experiences of jobseekers from previous years. Accuracy and attention to detail are extremely important, as is spelling. Stick with traditional fonts such as Arial and Calibri and a point size of 11 or 12.

The key to success is to remember that each time a school sees your application, it is doing so for the first time. The school wants to know how you can meet their demands as laid out in the job description or person specification. This is not about you, so drop the `I am keen to become a teacher and work in a small school' in favour of `My first teaching placement was with a mixed-age class' if that is the job on offer. Wherever possible ditch the word `I'.

Do your homework on the school. Use and enter the name of the school in the school search facility to read its most recent Ofsted report.

Remember to account for any gaps in your employment history, particularly if you transferred into teaching after a career elsewhere. Even admitting to being unemployed is better than leaving a school wondering why there is a gap. In these days of security and detailed CRB checks, pre-empting questions may help keep your application in the "consider" pile rather than seeing it discarded. If the job description has a structure, consider using the same format in your supporting statement. This should not normally exceed two sides in length, particularly for a first job. Do use sub-headings and bullet points and keep sentences and paragraphs short.

There is no guarantee in the present market that the perfect application won't be trumped by an experienced teacher whose job was made redundant at another school, but a sloppy application will be a waste of time.

Finally, don't neglect the intelligence you can gather during school placements. Each year, a number of trainees are offered a job where they trained; others are advised of posts in other schools by supportive staff.

This will be a tough year, but good luck and sensible planning will still pay dividends.

  • Professor John Howson is the head of Education Data Surveys, a sister company of The TES.

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