Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 11:45 UK

More teachers, but vacancies rise

teacher with pupils in playground
The pupil-teacher ratio has fallen as staff numbers have gone up

The number of vacant teaching posts in England's schools went up by almost a quarter in the past year, figures show. The number of unfilled jobs was 2,510 in January or 0.7% of the total workforce, up 470 or 23% from 2007.

The total numbers of teachers, teaching assistants and other support staff went up by 20,100 to 767,000.

The pupil-teacher ratio fell from 17.1 to one to 16.9 to one across nursery, primary and secondary schools, but there were more infant classes over 30.

Analyst John Howson of Education Data Surveys said it was difficult to account for the sudden jump in vacancy rates in the provisional statistics for 2008 published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Prof Howson said the change, especially in the West Midlands, "probably caught us all by surprise".

"What you can say is ... it's going to get worse because we know that in the subjects where the vacancies have gone up, they are struggling to recruit to target."

Teaching assistants

Ministers highlighted the fact that there were nevertheless 20,100 more teachers and support staff than 12 months ago and smaller average class sizes.

Parents have always told us they want more staff in schools to help their children get the most out of school and that's what we've delivered
Jim Knight
Schools Minister

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "Parents have always told us they want more staff in schools to help their children get the most out of school and that's what we've delivered.

"The huge rise in teaching assistants shows we've put our money where our mouth is on school workforce reforms, developed hand in hand with the majority of teaching unions.

"We have more teachers than at any time since I was at school."

Class sizes

Those reforms include giving teachers guaranteed time out of the classroom for preparation, planning and assessment work, and delegating more mundane tasks to support staff.

It is yet another example of the vast gap between what ministers claim in order to win elections and what is happening in reality
Nick Gibb
Shadow schools minister

The policy has seen a big expansion in the numbers of teaching assistants and other adults in schools: up again this year by 18,200 to 326,400.

The Conservatives pointed to the fact that the number of "unlawfully large" classes of more than 30 had risen by 52% to encompass 6,500 pupils.

Shadow Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "It is yet another example of the vast gap between what ministers claim in order to win elections and what is happening in reality."

But Mr Knight said the "very small increase" of 70 unlawfully large classes out of more than 53,000 had to be seen in context.

He added: "The law is absolutely clear on this - and there can be no excuses. We expect local authorities and schools to take their legal responsibility to limit class sizes very seriously."

Average pay

Mr Knight also repeated a claim about teachers' pay levels which angered members of the National Union of Teachers taking part in last week's one-day pay strike.

"Teaching is now one of the most sought after professions thanks to increases in the average teacher's salary by 19% in real terms to an average of over 34,000," he said.

His department has said this figure includes advanced skills teachers, head teachers, deputies and assistant heads as well as classroom teachers.

Just as there are more teachers, more of them have been taking sickness absence.

The total number of days lost in the year 2000 was under 2.7 million. Last year it was more than 2.9 million.

The average number of days each person was off work however has fallen, from a peak of 10 days in 2001 to 9.3 in each of the last three years.




SEE ALSO
Teacher numbers on the increase
28 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Fall in teacher training numbers
07 Feb 08 |  Education
Fewer new teachers finding jobs
30 Jan 08 |  Scotland
Schools enjoy jobs 'golden age'
17 Aug 07 |  Education

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