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Vacancies: the real picture

Statistics on job availability can be misleading. Bob Doe explains what they mean for NQTs

As the map above shows, at the start of this year there were almost 10 times as many teaching jobs vacant in London as in areas such as Yorkshire and Humberside, the North East and the East Midlands.

There were, in fact, more unfilled jobs in London and the South East than in the rest of the country put together. Some inner London boroughs, such as Greenwich, Lambeth, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, each had more primary vacancies than the 45 recorded in the whole of Wales. But while the number of vacancies is one indication of the underlying demand for teachers in an area, it is not necessarily a good guide to the chances of finding a first job.

To begin with, the numbers of unfilled jobs takes no account of the numbers of teachers in each area. As the table shows, however, even when vacancies are expressed as a percentage of teaching jobs, London, and particularly inner London, still ranks top, with the East and South East second. Yorkshire and Humberside remains the area of lowest demand but the North West and East Midlands are at the same level. But even these figures do not tell the full story, since these are only jobs unfilled in January, not the ones vacant during the year.

A better indication of the rate at which new jobs will occur next year may be the teacher turnover rates for each region. Once again the latest figures for these show the greatest turnover in inner London, where 18.6 per cent of teachers jobs changed hands in one year, and the East (15.4 per cent) and South East (15 per cent). The lowest job turnover was in the North West (12.7 per cent) and East Midlands (12.2 per cent).

But these make it clear that many more jobs become vacant in the year out of London than are left unfilled by January. So it may be easier to find a job in an area than the vacancy rates imply. Only 0.7 per cent of jobs were unfilled in January but 14.2 per cent of teaching jobs changed hands in 1996-97, that is nearly 60,000 jobs - twice as many as the number of newly trained teachers in 1999-2000.

What you teach makes a difference. Vacancy rates in special schools (1.7 per cent of total jobs) were double those of primary (0.8 per cent) and triple those of secondary schools (0.5 per cent). Secondary subject teachers most in demand were information technology (0.9 per cent of all IT jobs), maths (0.8 per cent), music (0.7 per cent) and design and technology (0.6 per cent). Subjects least in demand were social sciences (0.1 per cent), geography (0.1 per cent) and history (0.2 per cent).

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