Career clinic

This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about gap years and applying for non-teaching jobs

John Howson

Teaching is too much

I enjoy teaching a lot, but for a long time I have felt it's too much for me. The perfect job has come up (non-teaching) and I'm really tempted to go for it. The problem is, I would need a reference, and I'm scared of telling people and my head that I may want to try something else. Also, I am in the process of applying for part-time teaching posts. What should I do?

Since it is now long after 31 May, you are unlikely to be able to leave your teaching post until January. Will the non-teaching job wait until then? If it will, apply and, assuming it is full-time and pays more than the part-time teaching post, there is your explanation for why you are seeking another job.

However, other factors such as pensions and holidays should be taken into account alongside your feeling that teaching is no longer for you.

If you stay, and teaching does become too much for you, you will leave at a greater disadvantage and possibly with no job to go to. What would happen if your head decided your performance had fallen so far below par that they started competency proceedings, and then they had to declare that fact in any reference for either a part-time teaching post or a job outside the profession?

While you are still in control, and have decided full-time teaching is no longer what you want to do, apply for both jobs and see what happens.

Should I stay or go?

I have just finished my degree and have been accepted to a maths PGCE course starting in September. When I complete the course I will be 24, but I want to take a gap year afterwards. Do you think this would affect my job opportunities when I return? Will the fact that I have taken a gap year put schools off?

I would advise you to do your NQT year straight after the PGCE and then take your year travelling, as it would show that you have spent a full year in school. Depending on where you want to work, and how well you do in your PGCE, you should find a maths job relatively easily on your return.

However, if you take a whole year out to travel, beware of arriving back in the UK after the recruitment round for the following September has finished and finding all the jobs have been filled. That would leave you either looking for supply work or taking whatever options were on offer - and they may not be what you want.

One alternative - suggested by a knowledgeable headteacher on the TES forums in response to your question - is that if you work for a year in a school and they want to keep you, they may offer you leave of absence for a year.

This may be the case if you can tie your travelling to something helpful to the school, such as regular blogs for the humanities department about the countries you visit. Live pictures from Cuzco can bring history lessons about the Aztecs to life in the same way as pictures of the altiplano can transform lessons on the geography of the Andes. Watching children doing maths problems by the Amazon can help motivate Year 8 pupils on a dull afternoon in a way other techniques may not. So, you can see the possible benefits of building a good link with a school before heading off.

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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John Howson

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