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Published by Jamie Hall
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Published by: Jamie Hall on Apr 28, 2014
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Career progression in teaching:What’s driving UK educators?
Career progression in teaching: What’s driving UK educators?
There are all too many stories at present about the apparent flood of teachers leaving the profession. Even The Guardian isn’t immune to publishing accounts. But is this really the true position?  A decade ago teaching was emerging from a crisis that had left schools short of teachers, and so challenging was the situation that headteachers were making appointments over the phone recruiting teachers from across the  world. Reducing pupil numbers, especially in the secondary sector; the economic crisis that caused many former teachers to look to return to the profession; a reduction in the number of newly trained teachers; and better pay, especially for many of those at the top of the profession, then led to a period when schools often had the upper hand in making appointments, and many new teachers and returners found securing a teaching post challenging.  Added to these factors were the new posts that emerged after schools were given responsibility for their own  budgets. Classroom assistants and cover supervisors were just two of the new roles that were created in large numbers; even where these new entrants didn’t displace teachers, their roles often used cash that might have been spent creating additional teaching posts.There are signs that all this is changing, however. Recruitment into teacher preparation courses was more challenging in 2013 than in 2012, with significant declines in the number of trainees in subjects such as design and technology, computer science, physics and modern languages, which all failed to recruit as many trainees as the government predicted were needed. Even some primary courses failed to fill all their places, although this may have more to do with the moving of the Skills Tests to pre-entry and the effect that had on students wanting to enter training through the clearing route. This means fewer job seekers in these subject this summer.
Career progression in teaching: What’s driving UK educators?
 At the same time as recruitment into training has become more of a challenge – and early evidence suggests that the 2014 round will be just as challenging as last year unless there are more applicants over the next few months – schools have increased their demand for teachers compared with a few years ago. The next two months will determine the level of demand for new teachers in September, but increased pupil numbers in the primary sector together with the increased Pupil Premium will undoubtedly mean some schools will be seeking extra staff. Vacancy rates are unlikely to fall compared with last year, and may even rise still further. Fortunately, the peak in the level of retirements has probably now passed as there are now fewer teachers approaching retirement age compared with a few years ago.  As the recruitment process in teaching is so closely based upon a market, with jobs advertised and candidates free to pick and choose where to apply, vacancies may be easier to fill in certain areas than others. London and parts of the Home Counties, where school rolls are rising, may struggle as they always have during periods of teacher shortage, not least because there are more alternative careers for graduates in London than elsewhere in the country. Although the shortages of a decade ago are a matter of history their legacy does still affect schools, and will continue to do so for a number of years to come. In the years when new teachers were a scarce resource, there  were fewer potential middle leaders a decade or so later. The challenge of finding middle leaders is a lasting legacy of the shortages that will continue as a result of the low numbers recruited in some years due to the cut in training targets. This is good news for those teachers looking for promotion, as the Guardian survey shows that many are.Indeed, it is clear that teaching attracts and keeps those that like working with young people and are passionate about their subject. But, schools must ensure that teaching remains both interesting and stimulating with a satisfactory work-life balance. If these important considerations aren’t attended to then more teachers will leave the profession. Reducing wastage from the profession will be as vital as recruiting ever more new entrants.
 Prof John Howson is managing director of DataforEducation.info, an Oxford based research company and an authority on the labour market for teachers.

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