Increased opportunities in the capital
Whilst the effects of the recession can be felt all over the country, in some sectors, including teaching, there are increased vacancies. This is particularly true for London, where a number of factors mean that there is an increase in job opportunities.
David Cairncross, a director at Hays, the leading recruiting expert, has responsibility for the public sector, with a focus on London. He says there is an increased demand for teachers, with a “significant” rise in vacant positions over the last two years.
He puts this down to a number of reasons, including a rising birth rate in London and the South East. This will affect job opportunities at the bottom of the age range, in early years settings and primary schools.
Experienced teachers can step up
In secondary schools, prospects are also good. Many positions that historically were filled by teachers from overseas, particularly Australia, are now vacant, as the strong pound means that the UK is no longer as economically viable as it has been in previous years for overseas candidates.
There is a particular shortage in core subjects – English, maths and the sciences. London schools are therefore ripe for teachers who can teach these subjects and have two or more years of teaching experience under their belt, says Cairncross.
“Schools have only got a certain amount of funding, so they simply don’t have the resources to support NQTs and teachers who aren’t very experienced. But junior teachers with experience are able to step into these roles,” he says. “There is lots of demand, and lots of opportunity.”
This year, Cairncross says there has been a 20 per cent drop in the number of experienced teachers applying for positions – meaning there are more opportunities than ever for teachers with the right experience, qualifications and attitude in the capital.
“There are less candidates and more demand. There aren’t so many people around - people stay in jobs, so a good candidate will get snapped up very quickly,” he says.
Challenges & Opportunities
But Cairncross points out that schools in large cities are often challenging – and London is no exception.
“It’s not always easy for teachers in urban centres. In London, there’s a combination of difficult factors, including the higher cost of living and the challenges schools face. Many pupils are statemented, for example, and there is a high proportion of pupils for whom English is a second language. This means schools have a need for experienced teachers.”
Consider supply teaching
Cairncross recommends supply teaching as an excellent way for a candidate interested in working in London to build up the requisite experience, and also advises trainee teachers to study for as long as possible – opting for a four year degree rather than a PGCE.
“This is an excellent way for them to gain long term experiences and show what they can do. Make sure you go to a good, recognised university. Employers will look at the quality of the university and the quality of the course.”
Brush up on your skills after a career break
Prospects in London for experienced teachers returning to work after a career break are also excellent. Previous experience of teaching – and experience in other careers, is attractive to employers, says Cairncross, as long as candidates take measures to ensure their skills are up to date.
He cites behaviour management and phonics as two key areas that have changed in recent years. “The approach to behaviour management has developed. It’s not static, there’s a lot to learn,” he says.
“Phonics is a good example for how things have progressed in primary schools. The emphasis on how children are taught to read has changed rapidly over the last few years.”
Retention will be a focus
Looking forward, Cairncross points out that over the next few years, the teaching sector in London may find it hard to keep staff when the private sector job market picks up.
“The challenge will be to retain teachers who may have previously switched from the private sector into teaching – you may find they go back to the private sector, so retention will be a challenge.”
Rewards are great
However, for today, there are exciting prospects for the right candidate, says Cairncross:
“This demand is steady. It is starting in early years, thanks to the mini baby boom that has occurred, and will go all the way through school life. Working as a teacher in London is a hugely rewarding job - but it’s about going in with your eyes open and being prepared to solve problems and face challenges.”