WELSH schools have seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of mature entrants to teaching over the last year, higher than their counterparts in England.
Nearly one in five newly qualified teachers joining the Welsh register this year is aged between 35 and 50, figures released this week by the General Teaching Council for Wales show.
Almost 300 of 1,500 new teachers were in this age bracket, representing an increase of 20 per cent on last year's figures. In England, the numbers of mature entrants to teaching are also increasing, with 15.6 per cent of new, working teachers over the age of 35.
Gary Brace, GTCW chief executive, welcomed the trend and said: "Maturity and life experience are excellent assets in the classroom. Having spent many years doing something else before you start teaching gives you that extra bit of insight and perspective when handling classes."
That view is shared by Philip Pullman, the prize-winning author, who told The TES earlier this month that no one under the age of 35 should become a teacher.
His suggestion that experience outside the classroom was needed to develop creativity and intellectual curiosity prompted outrage from many teachers.
The new GTCW figures reveal that 76 per cent of all new recruits are women.
More than 900, or 49.5 per cent, of Welsh headteachers are female. In England, 76.8 per cent of new teachers are women, as are 49.5 per cent of heads.
Heledd Hayes, Welsh education officer for the National Union of Teachers, believes there is still much room for improvement.
"The vast majority of female heads are in primary schools, where 80 per cent of teachers are women," she said. "There are only 36 female secondary heads in Wales (out of a total of 225heads), but there are more women than men teachers. It's not the right balance to reflect the workforce," she added.