Career Clinic

This week Professor John Howson answers questions about leaving mid-year and application problems

Professor John Howson

Considering supply

I am working at a school I am not very happy in. What would be the best thing to say to a future school about my reasons for leaving my current school? Would it be OK to do supply for the summer term while applying for other roles with the aim of starting in September?

Teaching is a challenging job wherever you do it. In a school where you are not happy, it is even more difficult. But should you quit mid-year? This solves the short-term problem, but it can create a whole host of long-term issues.

First, you should focus on why you are unhappy and whether there is anything that can be done to improve matters. Is it a new job that has not worked out as expected? Or is your unhappiness the result of a change in a school where you have been for some time? Either way, if you can stick it out until the summer that would be preferable. Searching for a new job while employed looks a whole lot better on an application form than searching from the position of an itinerant supply teacher.

In the present financial climate, supply work is not as easy to come by as in the past. So you cannot rely on getting a regular pattern of work, especially as schools will have formed links with existing supply staff and secondary schools have fewer classes to cover.

Sickness absence also tends to be lower in the summer and spending on courses that require teachers to take time off from teaching has probably been reduced.

As to providing a reason to leave, if you depart at the end of the year, you will hopefully find a job before your actual departure date and you can put something such as "to further my career" on any application form. But make sure that you are not just moving from one school where you are unhappy to another where you will be equally miserable.

Technical difficulties

I received an email today to say that a job application I sent nine days ago had not been delivered owing to a "time out" on the school's server. The deadline was eight days ago and interviews had been arranged for this week. I applied by email as that is what the school asked me to do. What is my position?

The first thing to do is to contact the school by phone and explain the situation. Offer to forward their email back to them if they cannot find it on their server. You can ask whether your application might be considered.

Unfortunately, however, unless they did not receive many applications for some reason, I doubt whether they will consider adding you to the shortlist. There would have to be some very compelling information in your application to make them do so.

Is this unfair? Yes it is. And you deserve a letter of apology from the school, perhaps acknowledging that they should have ensured this technical problem did not arise when they were in the middle of a recruitment exercise.

But this is a little different from posting a first-class letter and it going astray. In that case, you never know whether it actually arrived.

In future, either ask for an email acknowledgement when sending in an application or, if possible, set your emails to register a return notice when your email has been opened. In the present job market, where schools can receive several hundred applications for a classroom teacher vacancy, acknowledging each one individually can be a time-consuming business, but I think you have a right to know that the system has worked. This is especially the case where the particular posts you are applying for are few and far between.

These types of problem are also another reason for not leaving an application until the last minute. If you apply early, there is more time to check your application has been received.

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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Professor John Howson

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