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Career clinic

This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about staying up to date and performance management

This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about staying up to date and performance management

In the loop while out of school

I qualified as an English teacher last year and gave birth to my daughter soon afterwards. I decided to stay at home with her but would like to return to teaching at some point. Can you give me some advice on how to stay up to date while I am away?

Although you have made an active decision not to start teaching, there are many others who would like to teach but cannot find a teaching job. Who has responsibility for your professional development, and that of all these teachers? This is one of those areas where the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) failed to make the impact I expected it would.

Should a compulsory number of professional development units be required of teachers each year in order to maintain qualified teacher status? Or is it satisfactory to leave it to the market to decide how qualified a teacher is at any point in time?

Obviously, TES provides a regular point of contact with the profession, keeping you in touch with what is happening. The TES online community also allows you to connect with other teachers, and thus feel less isolated.

Next, there is your professional association. It may have a lower subscription rate for non-working members, and again will provide valuable information. It may also offer professional development activities.

You should consider joining the appropriate subject association. In your case this might be the National Association for the Teaching of English (, which offers support and advice to teachers of English, drama and media.

A world-class teaching profession needs high-quality professional development for all teachers, including those not currently working in the profession. At present, that doesn't exist, and isn't even an aspiration of the Government. You are, unfortunately, very much on your own. But keeping up to date will pay dividends when you do eventually look for a teaching post.

Nobody reviews my work

I didn't have any performance management last year as I joined a new school in September, initially for two terms. My contract was extended to the summer term, then I was given a temporary contract for another year. None of my colleagues here had their performance reviewed last year either. What should I do?

Check your contract and see whether you are covered by the school teachers' pay and conditions document. Many academies, and all free schools, operate outside the national framework and may not have annual performance management reviews.

However, let's assume you are in a maintained school that is covered by the national framework. If performance management reviews are not available, you need to collect the evidence that you have met the post-threshold standards.

You should do this by creating a portfolio of evidence from your teaching, both at this school and at your previous one if it was during the relevant time period.

There are slightly different rules depending on which of the schemes you are covered by - and I have assumed you are within the most recent set of regulations.

You can find the exact details in section 20.11(a) of this document online (http:bit.lysXUZ17), which also contains details of the standards.

However, the wording is technically very complex and you would do well to consult your professional association.

It will also need to be informed if the school - and specifically the governing body and headteacher - are failing in their duties in respect of conducting performance reviews on an annual basis. As schools become more independent and local authorities focus less on their role as line managers for schools, this is the type of activity that can fall by the wayside. Now the GTC is being wound up, professional associations have never been more important as a safeguard.

Professor John Howson is our resident career expert, with 40 years in education, including spells as a teacher, academic, school recruitment researcher and government adviser.

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