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Career advice

Q I took early retirement as a primary headteacher five years ago on ill-health grounds because of stress. I have followed with interest the articles calling for retired teachers to return to work. I would love to return in a part-time capacity as a classroom teacher but am worried about expressing an interest in case my pension is put in jeopardy. What would your advice be?

A The Government has been keen to encourage retired teachers back into the classroom to help alleviate recruitment problems, but under current regulations those who were granted retirement on ill health grounds would not be able to return to the classroom without losing their pensions.

The Department for Education and Employment says: "Prior to April 1997, a teacher who was granted ill-health retirement was allowed to take up employment as a teacher in a limited, part-time capacity. The criteria for the granting of ill health benefits was that the teacher was unable to teach for the foreseeable future.

"However, since April 1, 1997, only those teachers who are permanently incapacitated (and that means they are unlikely to be fit to teach again - even in a part time capacity - before age 60) are accepted for ill health retirement benefits. In most cases, a person who is in receipt of an ill-health retirement pension cannot be regarded as having the health and physical capacity o be appointed as a teacher. If they are able to, they can return to full-time teaching provided that they give up their ill-health pension."

Q Are there any practical age limits on starting teaching or working in education in general? Does a 54-year-old graduate stand any chance?

A Regrettably, at 54 you may be considered too old to start in mainstream teaching. As you do not say what subject or level you are interested in teaching and what skills you have to offer, it is difficult to be more specific. Your local authority may have a recruitment manager who could advise you.

If money is not an issue, how about offering to volunteer to spend a couple of years overseas?

Q I have been looking at job advertisements and noticed that the pay scale for most schools is CPS but there are some schools that state TPS. What is the difference?

A Until last year there was one continuous pay spine covering almost all teachers who were not either heads or deputy heads. This was often called the Common Professional Scale or CPS.

Last year, the Government fundamentally altered the pay structure by introducing management allowances as well as the threshold. The basic scale remained in place for classroom teachers and has become known by some as the Teachers' Pay Scale or TPS. Many schools, however, seem to have stuck with the old acronym.

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