Dear John: would a drugs caution prevent me from teaching?

Two years ago I was found to be in possession of a small amount of cannabis. I received a warning for this but I am unsure if it was an informal warning so I don’t know whether this will show up on my police check. How will this affect my application for a PGCE course?


If you received an informal warning in the street, it may not have been recorded. A more formal cannabis warning might have been. If you weren’t formally charged, you don’t have a criminal record and it is unlikely to show up on the criiminal records bureau check unless the police recorded it as a piece of intelligence in case of future matters. Had you been charged, you definitely would have needed to disclose it, but if you regard it as no more than a ‘telling off in the street,’ and never visited the police station, you could discuss it at the end of any PGCE interview. Yes, drug use, even recreational drugs that are against the law including Class C drugs, can affect the possibility of a teaching career and the more applicants for a course the less chance you will have of securing a place. It may help if you don’t have any criminal convictions. But society does now expect high standards of its teachers and does regard drugs as illegal, so you can see why it would not want regular law breakers working with young people. Apply and see what happens.

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, including a brief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University and hosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him.