Careers clinic

If you've got a problem, you know who to call - our experts. John Howson and Sara Bubb offer advice every week

If you've got a problem, you know who to call - our experts. John Howson and Sara Bubb offer advice every week

Q: I passed my early years and key stage 1 PGCE in January 2005, but since September 2006 I have been doing supply work. I'm desperate to find a full-time job. I'm not young and cannot change my career again.

A: I am sorry to hear of your predicament. It is now more than three years since you passed your training and you still don't have a permanent teaching post.

If you are unsuccessful in finding one for September, it may be time to evaluate your career. Talk to the supply agencies and the schools where you have worked to see whether there is anything that may be working against you in the competition for jobs.

Some possible things for you to think about include seeking work as a teaching assistant who can cover absent teachers. Some large primary schools like this arrangement because it saves them having to pay supply agencies a fee and you can develop a relationship with a school. However, it would mean less money than regular supply work.

If you have passed your induction, look for work outside school. Consider part-time lecturing in the FE sector on childcare courses where your knowledge of young children might be useful.

You also need to see whether your previous career plus the teaching can open any other doors for you. Otherwise, you might have to become resigned to a diet of supply and temporary posts until you eventually find a school that will want to employ you.

I guess this sounds unhelpful, but across much of the country there are still too many primary school teachers chasing too few jobs.

Q: I am an experienced primary teacher looking for a new job. My last post was as a literacy co-ordinator, English is my specialist subject and I've also worked as a journalist. I'd love to do something that involves writing. What are my options?

A: It sounds to me as if you want to stay with words rather than take the obvious route into school leadership. If you look in the general section of The TES, there are sometimes posts that require your mix of skills, working for organisations preparing materials and providing a teaching opportunity, such as museums or charities. The snag is that they often don't pay well.

In addition to the pages of The TES, other sources of recruitment advertising for media, charity and local government posts might be worth keeping an eye on. You might also consider teacher training.

Finally, there are now lots more media studies posts in secondary schools where your skills might be useful. The same is also true for the FE sector.


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: I re-trained as a secondary history and citizenship teacher in 2005-6 after working as a lawyer. But instead of going straight into teaching, I worked for a real estate firm in Greece for 18 months. At 42 I now feel ready to commit to a career as a teacher, but am I fooling myself that schools will view my "gap time" as positive?

A: There's not much shortage of history and citizenship teachers so you need to look hard for jobs and submit stunning applications to stand a chance of being shortlisted. To be frank, you don't sound as if you'd be that appealing because your knowledge and practice are two years out of date. You can't be discriminated against on the basis of age, but they may question your commitment to teaching and staying power when looking at all the different things you've done.

Your challenge is to make yourself look as good as possible on paper: you'll need to turn everything to your advantage. The trouble is that you have little teaching experience to draw on and what you do have is out of date so you need to be thoughtful and creative.

How might the school benefit from your work as a lawyer? Do you speak Greek or other languages? Could you run a club or help out with careers advice as a result of your work abroad? What life skills have you accumulated and how might this help the pupils?

Supply or voluntary work will make you look as if you're committed to teaching.

It would be good to demonstrate that you have knowledge of curriculum developments in the past two years, so find out about diplomas and the renewed framework as well as developments in history or citizenship.

Look in The TES and local authority job bulletins, get in contact with all the teachers and schools you know and tell them that you are looking for work. The school grapevine is often the most efficient way of snapping up a job.

Q: I'm just about to finish my induction year in Wandsworth. Will my pay go up in September? I think I'm on the bottom of the main pay scale.

A: Yes, your pay will go up. Not only will you get the pay increase that all teachers are getting but you'll move up the main scale to M2. This means you'll get pound;26,581 a year instead of pound;24,168, which is an impressive percentage hike up. Don't spend it all at once.


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 extensively on induction and professional development.

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