Careers clinic

Our experts answer your questions

John Howson & Sara Bubb

Q: I have taught at my school for 11 years but will be resigning at Easter following a decision to put me through informal capability procedures. I teach part-time and have done some supply at another school, but am concerned about my chances of finding another job. I know I can do supply to pay the bills, but I will want a permanent job at some point. I have been trying to become pregnant for some time and suspect that my stressful work situation may be the root of the problem. Would a few years' supply be the best option? What would I have to do to become a class teacher again?

A: I assume you will have a good reference from the school where you have done recent supply work. Sadly, the job market is more challenging in many places than it used to be and schools can afford to be discriminating.

A departure at Easter without a post to go to may raise eyebrows, but, if you are staying in a local area, how well you are known and regarded by others will counterbalance the effects of a problem at your school.

How that school is regarded will also be important. If the head is generally well thought of among colleagues, you might struggle more than if that were not the case. After 11 years you probably should be moving on and possibly looking for a post with more challenge to it. You must also consider your personal situation and sort out your priorities. JH

Q: At the end of the last academic year I quit my post in a primary school with no job to go to. I was unhappy and felt that the staff were negative and disrespectful to each other and there was a pecking order in which you had to "serve your time" in order to progress. I'm ambitious and would like to apply for positions with TLRs, and eventually want to proceed to headship, but am struggling to explain my reason for leaving in interviews. Do you have ideas or suggestions of how to handle job interviews or move on?

Q: I am sorry that you find yourself in this position. Having quit this job, you now need to take control of your career. Ideally, a spell that distances you from your last school and looks good on your CV should be the aim. Perhaps some further part-time study, or if you have no ties, a spell volunteering overseas to gain experience for six months teaching English would provide you with lots to offer. There are also a number of maternity leave vacancies. Some carry TLR responsibilities and may offer a way back in. Without some credible story for the break in your career, interviews will be tricky as schools will wonder why you left your last job, even if the reference is a good one. JH

Q: I'm doing my induction year teaching secondary science and although I seem to be getting positive feedback, I'm seriously considering moving to primary. I have done a lot of research into the foundation stage curriculum and actually think I might want to do reception. I was thinking that the best thing to do would be to become a teaching assistant in reception for a year and then try to get a teaching job. What do you think?

A: Sorry to hear that you're not enjoying teaching science. Few new teachers enjoy the job until towards the end of the first year so you're not alone. It's bound to get better, so don't get into a negative mindset. Make a list of all the things you like about your present job: sharing a joke with the pupils and having a wide range of staff, maybe.

I share your enthusiasm for primary and early years, but it's not an easy option. Talk to some reception teachers and you'll realise that the job is totally exhausting - and that's for people who've been trained in all the areas of the curriculum and pedagogy.

Moving to primary is technically possible but too many people are chasing too few primary jobs, even in London. This means that headteachers will take people who look the safest bets. It's not unlikely that you'll look as if you're trying to run away from something and appear to be seeing teaching young children as an easier option. I'm not sure getting a job as a teaching assistant would help too much.

Many heads would prefer to employ a local who can be trained and who will stay, rather than someone who is using the job as a stepping stone. You would also find the pay and conditions challenging after working as a teacher.

If I were you I'd make the move to primary from a position of strength, staying in secondary to demonstrate commitment and build on your learning this year, but doing work on primarysecondary transfer or teaching science to primary children. Then ease your way into employment as a science specialist - that would be attractive to a primary headteacher. Once in, you can work your way into the job of your dreams - but maybe that will have changed by then. SB

Q: Do I have to have crossed the threshold to become an Advanced Skills Teacher?

A: No, this career route is open to outstanding teachers who can demonstrate that they meet all the standards. As an assessor, I evaluate people with varying experience from those close to retirement to people in their third year. SB

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training. He is now a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University.[Q]

Sara Bubb was a primary teacher before becoming a teacher trainer. She is now an education consultant, lectures at the Institute of Education in London and has written on induction and professional development.

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John Howson & Sara Bubb

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