Teacher joblessness doubles in five years

11th May 2012 at 01:00
38,000 were unemployed in 2011, despite `golden age for schools'

The number of unemployed teachers in the UK has more than doubled in just five years, with 38,000 not in work at the end of last year, figures have revealed.

Official statistics show that the number of out-of-work teachers has soared from 16,000 at the end of 2006, prompting renewed fears about the impact of constrained school budgets on school staff. The new unemployment number represents 8.6 per cent of the working teacher population.

For heads, the state of the job market may represent good news. Teaching supply expert Professor John Howson said secondary schools were "shedding jobs" as they readjusted their staffing numbers and budgets.

"This is a golden age for schools: it's the first time in history that many can pick and choose physics and maths teachers," he said. "When the recession hit there was a wave of people who decided to get back in to teaching, and this also swamped the market."

Last month, Department for Education figures showed that the number of teachers employed in England had fallen by 10,000.

For a small proportion of teachers, things are certainly tough, and often they can be found sharing stories on the TES forums. One goes by the internet handle of Fuzzle. "When I've been on Jobseeker's Allowance before, I've had a small amount of savings to fall back on. This time, I have nothing," Fuzzle wrote.

"It really does get you down at times. I think it's only human. I had a particularly bad time on WednesdayThursday as I'd been for an interview (Civil Service) where I thought I had a really good chance, but failed the interview.

"I just get the feeling that I'm going to be on Jobseeker's Allowance until I get to pension age."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the slow housing market and the freeze on teachers' pay meant fewer people were moving to seek work.

"There are fewer jobs; school budgets are really pushed. There are big geographical variations in the teacher job market. Some headteachers still find it difficult to recruit maths and science teachers, particularly in London," he said. "The government needs to get better at matching the number of teachers trained with local need, although I appreciate this is extremely difficult to plan."

Heads say that finding work is increasingly competitive.

"We are getting significantly more applicants in some cases. I think one reason might be the economic climate - there are fewer jobs available, particularly in some subjects," said Paul Norris, assistant headteacher of Wilmslow High School in Cheshire.

"Some applications come from people who have recently qualified and can't find a job. Some have been working as a supply teacher, some have found employment outside teaching."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Ultimately recruitment decisions are a matter for individual schools. It's essential we have high-quality teachers working in our schools if we are to raise standards. That's why we want teaching to be a competitive profession. But we know that nine out of every 10 newly qualified teachers go on to find a job."

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