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Tracking the return of 'lost' teachers

John Howson reports on the 300,000 staff who are in the 'pit' rather than the classroom.

NEARLY 300,000 qualified and experienced teachers were not working in state education in 1998. Three-quarters had not worked in state schools since 1992 though nearly 20 per cent had done so at some point between 1993 and 1998.

Of the teachers who left most recently, nearly half were over 40 at the time of their last period of service.

The teachers most likely to return are those taking a break to start families. A third of female secondary teachers, and nearly 40 per cent of female primary teachers, who last worked in the state sector in 1993, were in their thirties when they left. They represent nearly 17,000 teachers with a high probability of returning to teaching.

When the female out-of-service teachers i their twenties, and out-of-service men in their twenties and thirties are also taken into account there are around 30,000 potential returners under the age of 40 - the equivalent of about one year's intake of students into initial teacher training.

The Department for Education and Employment estimates that in 1997-98 around 9,000 teachers returned to either full or part-time service from the PIT (pool of inactive teachers).

To maintain this level over the next few years, either large numbers of the under-40s will need to return to service each year, or a proportion of those over 40 will also need to return.

Either way, more still needs to be done to keep in touch with out-of-service teachers.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. E-mail: int.edu@lineone.net

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