3rd August 2007 at 01:00
Q I noticed that schools can now teach any foreign language. Mandarin was specifically mentioned in the papers as one that might now be taught. How do I find out what chance I have of getting a job using one of these new languages?

A As far as Mandarin is concerned, we have tracked just two posts in the past 12 months, one in a selective school and the other in a comprehensive. This is less than the number for teachers of either Urdu or Punjabi. No doubt the number will now rise but, as it is, the present mechanism for training teachers will find it hard to cope with the anticipated demands of new subjects or curriculum areas.

The development of citizenship is a case in point. The new curriculum was introduced before subject specialist teachers were trained. Someone from the existing staff had to teach the subject until the school could have a specialist citizenship teacher.

With falling rolls, the problem is worse. The tendency may be to retrain existing staff, rather than look for entrants with specific expertise. The next area where this will cause problems is the introduction of 14-19 Diplomas.

There is a wider issue that relates to the degree of teaching certification. At present QTS is just what it says it is Qualified Teacher Status. So, any teacher can be persuaded to teach anything, whether or not they have had any specific training.

I don't know whether many parents are aware of this latitude. Is it time to press for more detailed certification linked to specific age, phase or curriculum areas? With teacher supply better than for a generation, it would highlight the areas where there were still problems and the types of schools that could not easily staff the curriculum, including secondaries that could face a challenge staffing separate science subjects at GCS *

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask him a question, email him at askjohnhowson@

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