Career Clinic

This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about changing work hours and what to include on a CV

Part-time predicament

When is the best time to approach my headteacher about changing to part-time teaching? Should I ask before half-term or at the end of term? I assume that, as I am on a contract, I would not be able to make the switch this academic year. Is this correct?

It all depends on why you want to go part-time. If it is really for your benefit, and there are no obvious advantages to the school, then now may not be a good time to raise the matter. It is likely that nothing can be done in the short term because timetables tend to be fixed for a year.

When budgeting for next year begins, it may be worth talking to the head. If possible, you could point out the savings that might be made if the vacant portion of your timetable was filled by someone on a lower salary. But the head will have to weigh up the overall needs of the school.

However, it may be that you have a more urgent need to go part-time from January, or even earlier, because of a change in personal circumstances. If, say, your role as a carer has changed - perhaps because a partner can no longer look after a young child in the way you had organised - then it is worth asking whether the school will review the possibility of you going part-time more quickly.

The difficulty is that we are now in a harsh economic climate and schools are even more performance-driven. So, many heads may find they are expected to place the obvious needs of the school ahead of the desires of their staff. Good leadership recognises that such decisions are based on weighing up often finely nuanced alternatives. You can but ask.

Too little information

We are currently shortlisting applicants for a senior management position and we have noticed that, on at least two of the application forms, the candidates have not listed their school qualifications, just their degree and college qualifications. Is this common practice?

An eternal battle exists between thoroughness and being pedantic. What one person sees as essential, another sees as dotting every "i" and crossing every last "t".

Personally, for a post at this level I would only expect A-levels results and the number of passes at GCSE. This is especially the case when dealing with applications for senior management jobs - many applicants will have taken their GCSEs more than 17 years ago, probably more than 20, and they won't list the number of A*s they got as the grade didn't exist then.

However, if this were an NQT applying for their first job it would be different, particularly if they were required to teach a range of subjects.

What use are you going to make of the information anyway? If one candidate has a poor set of GCSE results on their CV, will you look and see where their school was? Will you consider that this person has triumphed over early failure where another has glided along serenely? It might offer a talking point at interview.

I agree you should be concerned about gaps in the CV for safer recruitment purposes, but frankly the CRB check should be your main indicator on the safety front. If there was a gap in an applicant's post-18 track record, I would want to know what they had been doing during that time. But if they said "bringing up a family" would you really be any wiser? Issues about schooling can be dealt with at interview. Why not ask what they considered the key point of their secondary school life?

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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