Leave the country or leave the profession. George Wright highlights the dilemma for Welsh graduates
Hundreds of newly-qualified teachers are chasing a handful of permanent posts in Wales and struggle to complete induction periods on scraps of supply work and short-term contracts.
Many, as a result, must choose whether to leave the country for work or leave the profession. Only 52 per cent of primary NQTs who qualified in 2003 got first jobs teaching in Welsh schools, according to the Welsh Assembly.
John Andrews, then chairman of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), warned last October that the country was "training teachers for unemployment", as he revealed that less than half of the 1,570 teachers who qualified in 2003 had completed induction. Meanwhile, a (December 2004) TES Cymru survey of vacancies at the 22 Welsh councils found a total of 10 primary jobs and 14 secondary places. Eight councils were not hiring permanent staff and one primary in Newport received 217 applications for a classroom job starting last September, mostly from NQTs.
Yet, despite the raft of anecdotal and statistical evidence on the dire situation facing new entrants, the number of people applying for initial teacher training (ITT) courses at the country's nine education institutes and colleges still rises.
Figures being published this week by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR) are expected to show a year-on-year increase in applications. One college reports a 25 per cent rise in candidates for its primary PGCE. As Carl Peters, spokesman for the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers Cymru, said: "Publicity for job vacancies and the impact on application rates doesn't correlate."
Many NQTs blame their institutions and the Assembly government for failing to warn them about how difficult the job hunt was likely to be, and the National Union of Teachers Cymru argues that the situation amounts to a "cruel deception" of would-be teachers.
It is no wonder then, that Welsh NQTs have been looking to England for work. This riles Welsh unions, who argue that teachers trained with Welsh Assembly money should work in the country, rather than being trained "for export".
The response of the Assembly government has been to announce a cut in the number of primary teacher training places by 10 per cent over the next two years. It has also eased induction regulations and is planning a review of the role of the training colleges, which some fear may result in closures.
But the unions are not satisfied with what Rhys Williams, of NUT Cymru, describes as "peremptory actions" to cut teacher numbers. NUT Cymru and GTCW want more posts available and a guaranteed induction year for NQTs, similar to the Teacher Induction Scheme launched in Scotland in 2002.
The Scottish executive funds 40 per cent of each NQT's salary (Pounds 18,000pa), at a cost of about pound;25 million per year. The remainder, some pound;40m, is paid by local authorities.
Perhaps it is because of the sums involved that the Welsh Assembly's review of ITT will not consider guaranteed induction-year placements.