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 am a qualified secondary teacher with six years' experience. I took a five-year career break to bring up children, and I now want to return to teaching, but in primaries. How can I do this? Secondary to primary conversion courses no longer exist and I'm only eligible to join the secondary Returning to Teach programme. I think there should be more help for teachers to make this change.

A: Although there is a recruitment problem in some parts of the secondary sector, the primary sector is over-supplied with teachers. However, that is predicted to change from about 2012 if the expected surge in pupil numbers happens.

Schools are likely to start by employing the large number of primary trained teachers not working in the sector before looking to those who have no experience. Obviously, more challenging schools and those in high- cost areas will be the first to experience any problems with staffing.

Technically, your PGCE allows you to teach anything to anyone but schools require experience and appropriate training: so there is a Catch-22. You could look for a teaching assistant post to gain experience in the primary sector and then try applying once you understand the context of class- based as opposed to subject-based teaching. You do not say what curriculum area you taught in secondary schools. You will have more luck if it was in maths or sciences other than biology, and frankly little joy if it was a humanities subject.

If you are in an area with one of the few remaining middle schools, they offer a bridge between the primary and secondary sectors. Otherwise consider special education, home education tutoring services or supply teaching, but do not expect the transfer to be easy. Refresher training is a good idea too.

Q: Should an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) be on the new Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TRL) structure? Some say yes, others say it is up to the school.

A: There is a separate pay spine for ASTs. As TLRs can only be paid to classroom teachers and ASTs are not defined as classroom teachers, it looks like they should be ineligible for a TLR. Their duties are specified in paragraphs 66.1 and 66.2 of the current School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document 2007.

The definition of a classroom teacher is a qualified teacher who is not a member of the leadership group or an AST or Excellent Teacher (ET).

For more information see page 24 of the document or visit


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 have just been offered a job as an English teacher in outer London. I have an MA in educational studies but I was surprised to find that I will be paid at the beginning of the main scale (pound;24,000). If postgraduate degrees don't count, why are teachers encouraged to do them? I also taught English as a second language for 10 weeks and spent a year as a part-time teaching assistant. At 30, I find it strange that I'm paid the same as a 22-year-old with no life or work experience.

A: If that's your school's decision there's nothing you can do about it, unless when you accepted the job you did so "subject to satisfactory contract", in which case you could pull out. But I don't think the decision is unfair or unreasonable because higher qualifications have never been linked to extra pay in this country. Your MA may be a bonus when applying for promotion. You don't have a significant amount of relevant experience and certainly your age is irrelevant.

Don't get hung up about this. I'm sure you didn't come into teaching for the money. You haven't been treated unfairly so divert your energy into preparing well so that you have a fantastic induction year.

If you can show that you've made a significant impact to pupils and the life of the school you may be able to negotiate a jump of two points rather than the usual one in September 2009 - but it will be up to you to ask for and justify the acceleration.

Q: I have a permanent job starting in September but I'm due to have a baby in the middle of January. Am I right in thinking that if I don't complete a whole term in school then it will not count towards my NQT year? I'm also under the impression that if I start induction, it needs to be finished within five years.

A: Congratulations on your pregnancy. All is fine as far as induction goes. Just start as you would anyway and when you're back from maternity leave you'll just continue your induction year, which needs to be 189 days in total. You have to start induction if you have a post lasting at least a term: it's not optional. The rule about having to complete induction within five years of starting has been lifted so you don't need to worry about that either. But do look after yourself - growing a baby is quite a drain.


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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