1st February 2008 at 00:00
Q: At the start of term I took a job in a school after a period doing supply work. I admit I didn't look into the background very closely, after all it was a job, and I now find the school is likely to lose pupils over the next few years. Should I start looking for another post for September?

A: Many primary schools have been experiencing falling pupil numbers for years, especially in the mainstream key stage 1 and 2 parts of the school. This reduction is now being experienced by more schools in the secondary sector as these smaller pupil cohorts move towards adolescence. Of course, popular schools can buck the trend and some other schools suffer even bigger falls as a result.

At present, there are only limited actions any school facing inevitable reductions in its pupil numbers can take and planning for staff reductions is obviously one of them. Assuming your school has a forward plan, you might be able to take heart from the fact that you have been appointed on a permanent contract, since many schools now offer only temporary contracts to those starting mid-way through the year.

Nevertheless, hope is a powerful deterrent to action. You should investigate your situation more closely. It is already time to start asking questions and to base your actions upon the answers you receive.

To some extent you will know whether what you are teaching is in demand. The fact that you took a term to find a permanent post might suggest otherwise. Now that you are in a school, do you have more to offer than you are already teaching? One aspect of falling rolls is that schools may be forced to ask teachers to work in areas where they are less familiar.

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

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