Career Clinic

This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about pressure to be 'good or better' and notice periods

Professor John Howson

Should I stay or go?

I'm in my second year, and teaching a subject very much in demand in the local area. I have a good headteacher, but I'm worried about an impending lesson observation and the school's belief that you have to be "good or better" to retain your place there. In the words of The Clash, "should I stay or should I go now?"

If this is your second year of teaching and you have achieved everything you want to in your present school, looking for another school may be a good idea. It will draw the head's attention to your possible departure and, if you are in demand, that can be used as a bargaining point if you really want to stay. It is your career, and you have the right to do the best you can.

There is very much a push to try to improve standards at present through demanding more of teachers. I think that there are those in government who believe too many schools have not been achieving the full potential for all their pupils, hence the demand to be "good or better". However, it is only your second year of teaching and you undoubtedly still have things to learn, and that should be taken into account. For instance, you have only taught one complete exam cycle, and those pupils are yet to have their outcomes assessed.

What matters more is the manner in which lesson observations are handled in your school. If you have a good head, does their leadership style permeate through the rest of the senior team? What role does your line manager play, and are they reassuring? If not, this may be another signal to look into moving next year, regardless of the outcome of the observation.

Missed deadline

I know I have missed the deadline of 31 May for handing in my notice, but what do you do if you get a job asking you to start as soon as possible? When can I hand in my notice and what would be the earliest I could start the new job?

Anyone recruiting teachers will be aware of the deadline for resignations. If they offer you the job and want an earlier start, they can either offer you the post conditional on you securing an earlier release or, better still from your point of view, negotiate with your head for an earlier release, possibly on a part-time basis. But there is no guarantee your head will agree to any early release. Various factors may affect their decision: the financial situation at the school and the ease with which you could be replaced are just two of them.

If the job is outside education, the employer may not be familiar with the longer notice periods, but it is not unusual for senior staff outside education to be on up to three months' notice.

My experience of the private sector is that it can sometimes take a long while between advertisements and job offers, especially over the summer period. This means that if you are not offered the job until possibly August, they may be prepared to wait until January. However, if they want someone in a hurry and your head is not willing to release you, your contract binds you to stay until January. You could break your contract, but you should consider the risks attached.

However, there is nothing to be lost by applying.

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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