There is no excuse for jobs crisis

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
Many newly-qualified teachers have been unable to find jobs this September - jobs in schools, that is. This year's call-centre cohort may be the best-trained ever (page 1). Sadly, this week's headlines were as predictable as they were avoidable. A study commissioned by the Welsh Assembly confirmed in June that Wales is training too many primary teachers (England has made the same mistake). This is bad news for talented and enthusiastic primary specialists, frustrated at the threshold of their careers, and bad news for schools which need to attract more of the brightest and best graduates.

Though the biggest problem is in primaries, where rolls are falling, the headlines remind would-be secondary specialists also that teaching involves a risk. Even supply work is likely to be harder to find this year. And yet the position could be rapidly reversed as the disproportionate number of 50-somethings in staffrooms retire en masse. It is foolish to squander new recruits.

Teachers are not a commodity that can be turned on and off like a tap; a product that can be stored away until needed, like longlife milk. That might once have worked when there was a pool of married women returners to draw from. But with many young graduates now regarding the profession as a staging post rather than a long-term commitment, spurned NQTs may well look for another profession. No wonder NUT Cymru is demanding that the Welsh Assembly guarantees jobs for this year's NQTs so that they can complete their induction.

But how can future mismatches between supply and demand be prevented? Increasingly, it looks as if Wales must have its own home-grown system for regulating teacher supply (rather than an England and Wales one). This will be difficult, given the amount of cross-border teacher traffic. But it will be no more difficult than telling bright-eyed NQTs that their services are not required.

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