It may seem a long way away, but now is the time for those completing teacher training this summer to start thinking about their first teaching post. Competition is likely to be fierce again this year almost across the board. By the time the total number of new entrants from undergraduate, postgraduate and school-centred (SCITT) courses and employment-based routes are added together, about 35,000 trainees will be looking for a teaching job this summer.
NQTs will also be competing with those wanting to return to teaching and people looking for a new post either because their temporary job has come to an end or because they have moved to a new part of the country. The lucky ones are those on the Teach First programme, who are secure in their employment until the end of the two-year programme.
Whether you are an early years student coming to the end of an undergraduate programme, or a secondary maths PGCE, the anxiety is still the same. How do I find that teaching post and what are my chances of success?
There are two main routes into employment, either through employer pools or by direct application to schools. The pool system is mainly operated by local authorities on behalf of primary schools and has the advantage for applicants that they only need fill in one form per authority. However, the application deadlines are usually before the end of this term and might even be quite soon. Even if you apply to a pool, and are granted an interview, you shouldn't assume that means you will be successful in finding a teaching post in that authority: you should be prepared to apply for any vacancies you see advertised.
Most secondary school teachers will find vacancies are advertised by individual schools. The same applies to schools in the independent sector and most academies, although some groups who operate a number of academies are looking at more centralised recruitment strategies similar to the pool system.
So, what are your chances of finding a teaching post? Well, the General Teaching Council for England recorded 23,057 newly qualified teachers registered as in-service when it conducted its survey of the register in March 2008. In addition, there were 2,717 newly qualified teachers registered as supply teachers. But most of these were presumably looking for a permanent teaching post. The survey doesn't say how many of the NQTs were in permanent employment and how many had temporary contracts of up to a year.
But we do know from the data that 7,700 were working in primary or nursery schools and 9,503 were working in secondary schools. Some 535 were working in the independent sector, although there may have been others who haven't bothered to register with the council, as this is not mandatory.
There were 225 NQTs working in special schools or pupil referral units, and 83 working in sixth forms or other further education colleges. Finally, there were 2,884 recorded as "other". Just over two-thirds of NQTs were in their 20s when appointed, but this still meant that nearly one-third were over 30, and 11 per cent of NQTs were in their 40s when they started teaching. There were also more than 350 new teachers in their 50s, an increase on the previous year.
The majority of new teachers still come from higher education courses. In the latest council report they accounted for 74 per cent of NQTs, with a further 13 per cent on the graduate teacher programme and 4.5 per cent have studied on a School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) course. Other programmes accounted for about eight per cent of registrations, including 130 teachers on the Teach First programme who achieved Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
According to the council, these figures mean that 66.5 per cent - that is, about two-thirds - of the teachers who gained QTS in 2007 were recorded as being in-service in a school requiring registration or had voluntarily registered by March 31, 2008. This is similar to the percentages of recent years, which have fluctuated between 65.5 per cent and the 67.7 per cent reached by the 2006 cohort.
A third of NQTs found work in London and the South East, with some of the boroughs in the capital having the highest percentages of NQTs among their teaching force out of any local authority. This means that although jobs may be plentiful in the capital's schools, NQTs are likely to find themselves working alongside a higher percentage of new teachers than in other parts of the country. For instance, London accounts for 12.6 per cent of the teaching force in England, but 16.4 per cent of NQTs find work there.
By contrast, the North East Government Office Region has 5.2 per cent of the country's teachers, but only 3.8 per cent of the NQTs; just 865 of the 23,264 teachers in the region are NQTs. The South West also has fewer NQTs than its share of the national teaching force would predict - just 7.8 per cent of NQTs, but 9.7 per cent of the national teaching force.
For those looking for jobs in these regions, the task may be harder than for teachers in regions where jobs are traditionally more plentiful. But, for all job seekers, the falling rolls affecting many secondary schools and the limited increase in primary school rolls will be the main factors affecting job opportunities this summer. There will be jobs resulting from retirements and the 100,000 women teachers in their 30s are likely to produce an increased number of maternity leave vacancies compared with a few years ago, when the number was much lower.
Although it is possible to find the perfect job in a school just down the road from where you live, you can't rely it. Make use of the schools where you are placed for teaching practice. Even if they don't have a vacancy, teachers and heads do talk to each other and they may know of schools where there will be vacancies, as will your tutors. However tough the market, beware of taking a job in a school where you are uneasy about the vibes you get at interview. My online career clinic receives many questions from teachers who took a post in a school they had concerns about, only to regret it as soon as term started.
Your first teaching post will be the key to your future career, so you need to do everything possible to ensure you don't make a mistake with your first job.
John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys at TSL Education Ltd. Visit his online career clinic at www.tes.co.ukcareerclinic.
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