Old-timers flock back to class as recession bites

3rd July 2009 at 01:00
Record numbers of retired and former teachers seek returner training

Former teachers affected by the recession are coming back to the classroom, ending the trend towards falling numbers of returners, according to new figures.

Those aiming to rejoin the profession are doing so younger than ever before.

But the number aged 60-plus who are keen to work in schools again has also risen.

Refresher teaching-course providers have reported a surge in applications since the downturn began, particularly among those made redundant and parents who left teaching to look after their families.

There has been a steep decline in people going back to teaching since 2002, apart from a small rise in 2004.

The most up-to-date figures, for 200607, show returners made up 22 per cent of entrants to the profession - a total of 10,340. Most were aged 30 to 44, but there were 850 over-60s.

In 200102, 14,370 people returned to teaching - the majority in the 45-to 49 and 35 to 39 age groups.

But by the following year, numbers had fallen to 12,220, then 10,820 in 200304.

Numbers rose by around 3,000 the next year, but in 200506 they had nosedived to 9,480. In 200607, 10,340 returned to teaching.

Tony Cook, managing director of EM Direct, one of the biggest return-to-teaching course providers, said he was struggling to recruit two or three years ago, but interest has soared in the past year.

The company's autumn courses are almost full and one starting in January is following suit.

"I've noticed a much higher level of interest now," Mr Cook said. "The minimum number of students on a courses (for it to be financially viable) is 15, but ours have gone up to 23.

"Although geographically the demand is patchy, it seems to be the changing financial times that have made returning a necessity for many people, especially those made redundant."

But the returners may have trouble finding jobs. Teacher shortages common earlier in the decade have ended and cuts in PGCE places will begin this September.

Returners on refresher courses, which last six to 12 weeks, receive a bursary of Pounds 150 per week and childcare payments.

This year, the Training and Development Agency for Schools aims to recruit 1,200 people for training and has funded 68 courses this year at a cost of Pounds 3.4 million.

The training is offered by universities, schools, local authorities and private training providers.

Topics covered include behaviour management, ICT, working with teaching assistants, planning, recording and assessing, interview techniques and job applications.

Courses also include a minimum 10-day school placement.

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