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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Schools enjoy jobs 'golden age'
Teacher in classroom
Schools can select the cream of the crop when recruiting staff
Secondary schools in England are experiencing a "golden" period for staff recruitment, research suggests.

The quality and quantity of candidates applying for vacant posts means schools can select from a talented field.

It is a reversal of the trend less than a decade ago when there were teacher shortages, says Education Data Surveys.

The downside is that newly qualified teachers and experienced returners face stiff competition for jobs.

This is especially true in the North, where the workforce is shrinking fastest alongside pupil numbers.

It is a golden age and possibly the best it has been for a generation
John Howson,
Education Data Surveys
Many now face the prospect of having to move south to find a job.

But schools are reaping the benefits and finding most vacancies attracting a pool of strong candidates.

"It is a golden age and possibly the best it has been for a generation," said John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys.

"In 2001, you had shortages of trainees because there weren't training enough teachers.

"But now schools have never been as well off for selecting teachers who are keen to work in their establishments," he added.

Science gaps

One such school is Rooks Heath High in Harrow, north west London.

This year the comprehensive had four vacant posts to fill, one of them in science - a subject which has faced recruitment challenges in recent years.

The post was filled by the only candidate to apply, who then pulled out. A second round of adverts produced two strong candidates, one of whom was appointed.

Head teacher John Reavley is encouraged by recent trends in recruitment, but not complacent.

He said: "I've found the situation has got better, but not across the board.

"I know of one or two schools around here who have had trouble recruiting in the science area."

Stepney Green School - a comprehensive in East London - had three posts to fill this year.

Head teacher Paramjit Bhutta said: "I would agree that there has been a turnaround.

"Every time we place adverts we get a good pool of candidates - a very strong field."

Balancing act

The new golden era of teacher recruitment may be good news for schools, who can pick and choose the cream of the crop, but in some cases newly qualified teachers, especially from the north, are having to compete with more than 100 others for the same post.

Some are considering moving south to find a post, where the higher cost of living swallows up most of their modest starting salaries.

Education Data Surveys' concern with the recruitment pendulum swinging in favour of schools, is that it may not be sustainable.

Prof Howson said: "As much as possible needs to be done to get the market as close to balance as possible because extremes either way mean someone is going to be disappointed.

"The risk is that it swings back the other way. We don't want people to be put off training to become teachers because they won't get a job."

Evidence suggests this is already happening, however, with graduate teacher training applications down this year.

Prof Howson says if this accelerates, the supply position could deteriorate rapidly, but it might take years for the government to notice.

Education Data Surveys' conclusions are based on tracking 32,000 secondary school vacancies across the country in the 2006-07 academic year.

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