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Is there (still) a demand for maths teachers?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by MathMan1, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. I placed this question up on the 'Thinking About Teaching' forum on 8th October but since the only replies to date have been my 'bumps' I thought I'd try my luck posting it on the Maths Forum since yours appears more active.
    My question is this: I am a newbie here on the TES website, currently working though an OU Maths Degree. I've read a lot of posts on the various forums here and am confused over a couple of issues, can you or one of the other people on here help me with these?
    1. Is there 'really' a demand for new Maths teachers? I ask since all I seem to find here are posts saying either, a) I can't get a training position, b) I can't complete my NQT year, or c) I can't get supply work. Surely something is amiss?
    2. Will the fact that I'll be all of 46 when starting my teacher training mean I will be deemed 'too old' to be accepted onto a 'real' teaching role once qualified? Ageism appears in quite a lot of posts and as NQT but not a youngQT will I be just throwing good money away in the training?
    3. PGCE vs GTP, is one better or is it a case of taking the opportunity that one is provided with. It seems both camps have their pros and cons. For example; GTP is quicker, offers a real salary, however, PGCE covers more training, requires less school teaching time and offers that 'golden handshake' in due course.
    Apologies if these questions have been posted before, it's just that I actually do enjoy maths and have taught our own children well ( home-ed, but I'll keep that a secret in interviews! ) but personal circumstances prior to now have meant full-time study wasn't an option for me.
    I'm based in the Cambs area so there are quite a few nearby Counties in which I could possibly secure a position within, providing, of course, that such opportunities exist in a few years time.
    I realise there are no guarantees with any job or career, but there are a lot of mixed messages both on this website and on the other sites 'out there'.
    Thanks for reading my post, I look forward to any replies, hopefully more here than 'over there'

  2. DM

    DM New commenter

    If you want a job in Suffolk, I'll give you one.
    Does that answer your question?
  3. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    My sympathies on the lack of response to your "Dear Graham". This forum is far more likely to answer a sensible question. Here are my thoughts:
    1. On the whole, yes there is demand. Look at the adverts in TES. It may be quiet now, but it hots up either side of Easter, ahead of the resignation deadline for September. There may be areas where demand is lower, but I've seen several posts on this forum from people who can't recruit Maths specialists. That being said, you do need to be able to write a coherent application and look OK at interview; not all applicants can. (Not a comment on you, I hasten to add.)
    2. I'd hope not. I was a similar age (OK, a touch older) when I qualified about 5 years ago, and I have 3 colleagues who were late starters.
    3. I did the GTP, and am glad I did. It got me established in a school where I was taken seriously as a colleague and not just a trainee. They also offered me a job which made my NQT year a doddle compared with others. My department was supportive and my timetable of 50%, increasing a bit later on, was managable. However, I know that others have not been as lucky, and have been used as cheap labour. When I did it, I worked out that GTP and PGCE were financially similar, after tax etc. Of course, the PGCE has advantages, but I can't speak for them myself. Why not visit the Student Teachers and GTP forums?
    Good luck.
  4. Hi Mathman1,
    1. My experience - yes, there is a demand for maths teachers! I got a job on my second interview, three months before I finished my PGCE (I live in South West London. School is 20 minutes walk away).
    2. I'm 43, 44 in December. So no ageism in my experience.
    3. I chose PGCE. Reasons are: with the enhanced bursary (£9,000 not taxed) plus golden handshake (£5,000 taxed), student loan (cheap), less university fees (£3000 or there abouts)...etc. money is not that substantially different (I used to be a finance director, so believe me!). The big advantage of a PGCE is it is recognised worldwide. Plus, you get so much support during the first year of university. All schools are different, and I know some are tremendously supportive to GTP's, but at least with a university backing you, you are guaranteed the training and somewhere else to turn to...if things go wrong (they'll change your placement school, for example).
    Go for it, I'm loving it!
    Mrs Maths_Caz
  5. Is there a demand for Maths teachers? God yes! The last three years have been real nail-biters for us trying to get in someone - I have been very lucky so far. If you are not insistent on working in a posh school, then lots of schools will be desperate to have you.

  6. Thanks to everyone with your considered responses, I was becoming rather paranoid about the lack of replies - I feel I'm now with friends!
    Piranha, it's interesting you say vacancy rates increase in Easter (I can see why, in hindsight). Actually I felt there were already quite a lot of Maths vacancies on the TES website, so any increase to that would place Maths in an even more positive light. (For me, that is, not the unfortunate schools trying to fill them). Comments from DM and likeglue2 appear to support this view as well.
    Pirahana and Maths_Caz, thanks for the each-way comments regarding GTP-PGCE. It appears from other comments around the site that GTP places are less available since they are 'in' the school and have to be budget for, wheras the PGCE place is 'in' the University and they, via the study fees, fund your existance in the school. ( Please correct me if that's way off beam ).
    I have been following threads on the student teacher and GTP forums so I'm trying to build up a picture as to whats happening.
    One issue that seems to make creating a picture rather difficult is that when people post comments along the lines of 'I can't get a position', or 'I can't complete my NQT year', or 'there's no supply work out there', it's simply not appropriate to bundle every category of teaching subject and ranking together. There's not even a simple way to separate primary from secondary teachers.
    Clearly teachers of less in demand subjects ( sorry, but it's true, there are going to be such subjects ) will find it harder to secure a position. There will also be problems for those that have a higher locked-in points based salary compared to newbies.
    It feels to me that, reading between the lines, many training institutions operate a PGCE-Farm model; bring'em in, get the fees, send them out as cheap teaching labour & at the same time keep 'em off the unemployment lists for a year or so. Then, when they are at NQT status and have boosted the university's statistics, drop the now ex-students like hot potatoes and welcome with open arms the next batch of willing participants.
    Perhaps if prospective students were aware of the average delay between completing a PGCE and obtaining a position, which appears to be, in some cases, years, then they might reconsider many of the subjects that are currently studied but not in demand in schools.
    To me, some teachers might have selected subjects that they want to teach, purely because they like them, whereas a sensible first question would have been, 'does anyone else want to be taught this subject?' If they asked this, and then checked on the vacancy websites they would be forced to recognise that their favourite subject, whilst no doubt being of interest to them, is not held in high regard by the great majority. No hours in the timetable = no FTE requirement = no vacancy = no salary. Isn't that a fair question to ask before going into debt to fund a career?
    No offence meant to anyone trying to secure a position, just the view of an outsider looking in.
  8. Sorry about the that, and repeating Mathman1 - computer decided to crash! Anyway, in summary, Mathman1, what I think you're saying, in brief, there are shortage-subjects, and non-shortage subjects, so the general appeal for teachers is misleading...but if you've decided on maths - no problem! We are a shortage subject!
    Mrs Maths_caz
  9. 1. Yes, but I think the demand has abated, so schools are getting a little more picky. There are still many more advertisements for Maths jobs than, say, History.
    2. Doesn't make much difference. I think age counts for you actually as you have a bit more life experience and may have brought up your own children.
    3. I think it comes down to preference at the end of the day. You have to pay tax on GTP salary, which means the amount you get is simmilar. Some people like more theory and advice. Others just like to get stuck in.
  10. DM

    DM New commenter

    Point 1 above is silly. The number of mathematics teachers greatly exceeds the number of history teachers!!
  11. Thank you all for your replies, they have been most helpful.
    For now, however, it's back to my studies.
  12. MathMan,
    I am currently on the PGCE for mathematics in the cambridge area. So far, I am finding it incredibly rewarding. The university I am studying with is regarded one of the best in the UK for teacher training, (and on our first day they said they thought they were best in the world!). We were told that if we wanted, we could apply for jobs now, because usually having the name of the university on your application helps tremendously. However, our tutor told us that we could easily wait until easter, as the university has a 100% employment record. I can't speak for the GTP, but it seems to me that it could be harder to initially find a school to take you on, particularly in this area as there are at least 3/4 major universities sending out trainees to all the schools in cambridgeshire and neighbouring counties. At my school, there are a couple of people doing the GTP, but they have been working as unqualified teachers for a few years previously, and presumably have a secure position in the school after they finish. Although the PGCE undoubtedly has more theory, I chose my university due to its high amount of practise (about 2/3 of the course is on placement), and I think that research and theory certainly helps and is looked upon highly in many schools.
  13. tesscrisps, thanks for your reply.
    As I mentioned, I'm currently taking my Maths degree with the OU and have not, as yet, made any decisions as to the PGCE or GTP route. My post was more of a 'finding out' exercise however, as I have not worked as a teacher before, the choice may be made for me in this respect and a PGCE route may be the most appropriate one for me.
    Possibly therefore, the OU PGCE would be a 'logical' next step since I am already in their system and posters on here have spoken highly of their training, however, the simplest approach is not always the best so that's why I'm canvassing as many opinions as I can.
    tesscrisps, may I ask, with whom are you taking your PGCE? If it's not correct to post that on-line here, could you PM me this as I'm trying to understand better which providers would be best for me to go with, assuming I want to try to get placements around this way?
    Are you able to say who the other PGCE/GTP providers are that put students out here? I'd assume it would be the coy in Lincoln, Anglia Ruskin, Homerton, Bedford Uni and some others perhaps?
    I've read on here that some PGCE providers seem to be rather prone to sending students what appear to be great distances for their studies, surely this isn't really the way it needs to be?
    Any tips greatly appreciated.
    Oh and, yes, I am enjoying the maths, quite like meeting up with someone you've not met for a long time and finding out you've still got a lot to talk about.
  14. I was, up until August 31st, Head of Maths at a school in Cambridgeshire and attended meetings with all the other Cambs MathsHODs 3 times a year.
    Every time we put an advert in the TES for a mainscale teacher we crossed our fingers and hoped for a field to interview from. Whereas History (for example) adverts would generate 60+ applications we would be lucky to get more than 5 or 6 - and often a couple of those were very shaky applications who couldn't even get the right school name in their application letter! And that was for a school 10 mins outside of the city - some in the more distant corners of the county had even greater problems.
    Every Maths HODs meeting had a fair spell where we all shared stories of just how many staff we were down and how we were coping with the gaps. Anyone with a full team was considered a rarity (fortunatelty we were often there or close to fully staffed) but some schools had more vacancies in the dept. than they actually had staff.
    Phone up/write to just about any school in the county after Christmas saying you are looking for a job and asking if they expect any vacancies and you'll generate quite a few bites I am sure.
  15. MathsHOD, thanks for the reply, I suppose I sound a tad incredulous; it's simply that like any other (semi-)mature candidate considering a change to their career, I want to double- or triple-check the information I'm pulling together to ensure that I minimise my chance of being left with more debt and no income to be shown for it in the end.
    I appreciate your useful and timely input.
  16. DM

    DM New commenter

    MathMan, over the border in Suffolk, we already know we are going to have 1 vacancy in January and 3 further vacancies in the summer. Our nearest two neighbouring schools have 4 vacancies and 3 vacancies respectively.
  17. DM

    DM New commenter

    And TES adverts at £1,000 per shot invariably result in zero applications.
  18. That £1k hit is terrible! When all the wasted ads across the UK are totted up that's a ton of cash going down the tubes. still it helps to pay for the TES webserver hosting costs I'd guess. There must be a better way ( not sure what myself, however ).
    DM, Having read back over the replies to my earlier post I'd like to ask you and the others on here a somewhat different question; (Q) why IS it so hard for schools to secure 'quality' maths teachers?
    By that I would assume ( from what I've read on this forum ) that it is not that schools receive no applications whatsoever, it's just that those applications are from people that don't have the right strength in their maths backgrounds, since it's hard to teach a 'building-block style subject if you don't have the blocks in place yourself.
    It can't be simply that that all of those with strong maths degrees work outside of teaching, since unless applicants already held a PGCE or suchlike you couldn't employ them and therefore any applicants will have already thrown a ton of their own cash at obtaining a PGCE in maths.
    Is it simply that 'good-uns' are held onto tightly by their existing schools and if so, how do they sweeten the deal, is it with ASTs, TLRs, golden handshakes etc ( I'm beginning to learn the jargon! )
    And what of the maths teachers that you know of that have left their last positions. I imagine that most would either a) move roles to obtain a better role, perhaps linked to a higher grade scale point, or b) move because they don't enjoy where they are, or c) simply elect to leave the profession since they feel they will earn more in another profession.
    Is this partly linked to the fixed salary structure within all schools such that it's not possible for 'market forces' to let higher salaries be offered to different subjects, as would be the case in less regulated industries?
    I would imagine some of these issues are like those Russian Dolls models; as one model is opened up another model inside is exposed with a further one waiting to be seen inside that.
    Does anyone have any thoughts on the matter?
  19. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I think that there are two reasons. First, a lot of Maths teachers are needed, so we need a higher proportion of Maths graduates to become teachers.
    Second, it is much easier for Maths graduates to earn a lot of money elsewhere. When I worked in the City, I needed to have good mathematicians in my department and I would pay up (or my my company would, rather) to get them. So, there is more cometition for mathematicians. On purely financial grounds, we should all be doing something else. I went into teaching because I thought the time had come for me to do something more worthwhile, and I suspect that many others have similar reasons. Most people with strong Maths degrees do work outside of teaching; we on this forum are in the minority. Your PGCE argument doesn't work; most mathematicians don't have a PGCE and even for those who do, the extra salary in (say) finance makes up for the cost very quickly. For a young graduate, the PGCE isn't financially so bad, with the bursary and extra cash early into the job, both tax free.
    It is true that Maths teachers would be paid more if supply and demand set salarys. I am not sure that this would be a good thing. My non-Maths colleagues are at least as dedicated as me, and I don't think that I deserve extra because I chose the right subject.
  20. This is not always the case in Independent schools. In my school we have a 24 point main scale (ranging from £27K-£48K). Last year we recruited an ex army training officer to teach Physics and Rugby. He came in at the top of the main scale even though he had never taught in a school before. If he had applied to a state school he would have had to spend a year getting a PGCE and then start at the bottom on £20K.


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