Are fewer teachers entering the profession? This was one of the issues highlighted in the Green Paper. Provisional figures shown in the table (right) suggest that only two-thirds of those who qualified in 1996 were working as teachers by the end of March 1997. This figure was significantly down on the 73 per cent of 1994 qualifiers shown as in post by March 1995.
Part of the reason for the reduction in numbers entering service may be that more students completed initial teacher training in 1996 than 1994; 27,980 in 1996 compared with 25,470 in 1994. It may be that numbers emerging from training rose faster than the teaching posts open to them since school budgets came under increasing pressure during this period.
Some 1,400 more secondary and 1,120 more primary teachers successfully completed an ITT course in 1996 than in 1994. Of course, not all secondary subjects saw the same rate of growth; exactly the same number of maths teachers completed training in 1996 as in 1994 (1,650 in both years).
However, there were 340 more English teachers, an increase in supply of nearly a quarter. There was a similar increase in PE teachers of 30 per cent from 980 to 1,280, and in RE teachers from 340 to 440. However, technology saw a drop in the numbers qualifying from 1,780 to 1,630 with both the BEd and PGCE routes recording falls in the numbers qualifying. There were rises in the numbers of teachers qualifying in all other secondary subjects.
In both years there seem to be important regional differences in the percentage of teachers who complete ITTcourses and then start teaching.
Thus the percentage of those who trained in London entering teaching was the lowest for any government office region in England. Some 70 per cent of 1994 London completers, but only 63 per cent of those who completed in 1996, were teaching by the March of the year following their qualifying. This is despite the fact that 10 fewer teachers qualified in London in 1996 than in 1994. London is one of the few regions to show a decline in the number of ITT completers between 1994 and 1996.
These figures are all the more curious as the number of vacancies in London schools has been rising faster than elsewhere in the country in recent years. In January 1995 there were 399 teaching vacancies in London schools, according to Department for Education and Employment calculations, but by January 1997 this had risen to 681. By January 1998 London's schools were recording more than 900 vacant posts, or double the number of vacancies of three years previously.
It may be that the opportunities for graduates have been so much greater in London that teachers conclude that other careers offer better possibilities. If this is so the outcomes of the Green Paper can't come too soon for London's schoolchildren.
John Howson is a fellow of Oxford Brookes University and runs an education research company, E-mail email@example.com