North-south divide in teachers' jobs

17th August 2007 at 01:00
JEMMA THOMPSON spent four years training to be a primary teacher, which has been her dream and ambition since she was a teenager. Yet not one of her 30 job applications this year has led to an interview.

Now the 22-year-old is pulling pints part-time at a pub in York. Her boyfriend's job and house tie the couple to the city, but Jemma is willing to commute to work anywhere in Yorkshire.

While studying, she helped out at the Doncaster primary where her mother works, but it had no jobs.

"It's demoralising," she said. "I love teaching. That's what I trained for and I'm definitely not going to give up. But it's difficult when you keep looking and there's nothing."

Official regional figures in an Education Data Surveys report show the secondary teaching workforce shrinking in line with declining rolls in Wales where a new round of school closures is imminent the north of England and the south-west, but growing in the south-east and east. The problems for graduating teachers are exacerbated in the north and Midlands because teachers who have held on to their posts seem less likely to risk changing jobs.

The London workforce increased 8.8 per cent this year as internal and external migration helped to drive up rolls slightly.

New physics, chemistry and maths teachers are wanted everywhere and can demand to be paid pound;3,300 more than the starting rate, as well as receiving pound;5,000 golden hello payments.

In all regions, but particularly in London and Roman Catholic schools, there are pronounced shortages at leadership level. The report shows vacancies for heads of department and heads of sixth form are often advertised on the more lucrative leadership pay scale.

Professor John Howson, the report's author, said the Government had trained too many teachers in some subjects and regions, while they were still struggling to fill shortages in others.

Sara Bubb, of London University's Institute of Education, said the Government was funding teacher training places at good northern universities, but the classroom jobs did not exist in the north when those teachers graduated.

A government spokesman said there were more teachers in English schools than there had been at any time in the past 27 years. The number of training places was based on projections of the numbers of teachers needed in future years, he said.

"The majority of newly qualified teachers do find a post but numbers naturally vary from one region to another, so there are jobs available if people are prepared to be flexible," he said.

New teacher Laura Green, from the north-east, said neither she nor her classmates had found jobs. "I have received good feedback from placements and am confident in my teaching ability," she said. "I just want a classroom to make my own."

John Cater, vice-chancellor of Edge Hill University, which has several campuses in the north-west, said most committed teaching graduates were able to find jobs, though in some subjects it helped to be willing to go further afield for work.

But the mother of one Edge Hill graduate forced to work as a supply teacher said the Government needed to take serious action to limit the number of training places until the glut had diminished.

Lynn Lee said her daughter Sarah, who graduated in 2005, had been given the impression that the job situation would not be a problem, but one school in St Helens, Merseyside, received nearly 650 job applications. "Determination to do the job she loves is the only thing that keeps her going," she said.

John Howson, page 15

IT PAYS TO BE IN DEMAND

Jonathan Matthews is just the sort of teacher the Government wants and so it threw money at him to entice him into the profession.

After he completed his doctorate in applied maths, Jonathan received a Pounds 9,000 bursary to train as a maths teacher at Manchester University. He also received pound;3,700 in student grants and additional payments and will be entitled to claim a pound;5,000 golden hello payment after his first year teaching in the state sector.

On graduating, Jonathan, 27, was offered two jobs in the south. With no ties, he was free to accept a position at a boys' grammar school in Reading, Berkshire.

But finding work was not so easy for many other new teachers, he said, including some of his classmates who were older, with families.

"I think this year's graduates had no warning that jobs were disappearing in areas like some modern languages and primary," he said.

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