Career clinic

This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about struggling with supply work and applications

Professor John Howson

What to do next

I graduated in 2010. I didn't manage to secure a teaching post, so I decided that supply would be the way forward. I managed a grand total of 35 days across a whole year. Despite having gained experience and teaching in every year group, this was still not enough to secure me a post. What should I do?

Whether to start a third year of supply teaching with the hope of still securing a permanent teaching post must to some extent depend on what you teach and where. The further north you are in England, and in the majority of secondary subjects, I would be dubious about whether a third year will really help if you have not been able to convert your supply experience into a job offer by now.

If you are a career-switcher and looking in a specific area, both may be working to your disadvantage in the present job market. Frankly, I would start looking elsewhere, especially as the non-teaching job market is more year-round than teaching, where fewer posts will now appear until at least the autumn - and possibly not until early 2013 for permanent posts. Other employers can recruit throughout the year.

The supply industry still has to cope with large numbers of teachers seeking supply work. And although there may have been an upturn in daily supply recently (perhaps linked to a drop in morale in the profession), teachers in some parts of the country report that they are finding it a challenge to persuade an agency to take them on.

Am I the person for the job?

I am an NQT in my forties. I am about to apply for a maternity post in a Church of England secondary school (my specialism is RE). However, the info pack from the school contains no person specification. When I emailed to enquire about this, they said they could offer no more information.

You will just have to use the job description and in essence make up a person specification from that. So, if the job description says "good subject knowledge", the person specification might read "good honours degree in RE and a PGCE in the subject". For "experience of teaching the subject", the appropriate person specification might be "x years teaching RE in a similar school", and so on. You can then demonstrate how you meet these perceived criteria.

RE is one of the subjects where the ratio of advertised jobs to likely applicants in 2012 is still very poor from the applicants' point of view. In this case, if you do not have strong ties to the Church of England, and another applicant does, you may well be ignored in their favour.

Check other sources for information: read the school brochure (often online these days), the last Ofsted report, information on standards on the Department for Education website, and the local press. Finally, work out what you still do not know about - the department, the teaching philosophy at the school and other wider issues - and formulate questions on that basis.

During any visit and at interview, keep your eyes and ears open for other issues that may arise, perhaps the influence of the RE department on the life of the school.

I am afraid that, as you are in your forties, you may be regarded as expensive to employ over younger, cheaper teachers, despite the many other good qualities you would undoubtedly bring to the profession. So you may need to make it very clear that, as you are new to the profession, you are willing to work for main pay scale 1.

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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