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Careers - Get into the move

Switching schools can be harder than moving house. Time to consider where you are heading, how to get ahead and the sort of work you will take on

Switching schools can be harder than moving house. Time to consider where you are heading, how to get ahead and the sort of work you will take on

One of the great things about teaching is that you can work anywhere in the UK. But if your partner lands a swanky job at the other end of the country, or your parents fall seriously ill, can you really just up sticks, confident you will be able to find a new job?

John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys, is not so sure. "The days when a good teacher could find work anywhere have gone," he says. "It is a very competitive market right now."

In part, your chances will depend on where you are heading. Broadly speaking, London and the surrounding counties offer the best job prospects, along with urban areas in the Midlands. South West England, on the other hand, is a difficult region, while the toughest areas of all are the North of England and particularly the North East, where falling school rolls have seen a sharp drop in vacancies.

You have more hope of beating these demographic demons if you are relatively young - and therefore cheap. "The higher you are on the pay scale, the fewer openings there will be," says Professor Howson. "As a teacher, you can't offer to take a pay cut because the main scale is linked to experience. All you can do is give up any extra allowances."

Even if the right kind of vacancy arises, landing a job in a new part of the country can be tricky. You will be up against applicants from the local area, and the appointing head may be aware of their reputations or know their referees personally. Schools may also feel that someone with roots in the area is likely to stay longer or that a local teacher will relate better to pupils.

To improve your chances, be clear in your application about your reasons for relocating but don't go into too much detail about your private life. And be sure to do your research. If you are moving between England, Scotland and Wales, you need to get your head around the different systems and qualifications.

Even if you are just switching authorities, you should be aware of local issues, such as whether or not grammar schools operate in that area.

If you are moving without a job, think carefully about where to base yourself. Living between two major urban areas may give you a wider choice of schools than living in between. You could also join a teacher recruitment agency - look for one that has a local office and that recruits for full-time posts as well as supply.

"When someone is new to an area, we give them a rundown on the local scene," says Emma Debbage, general manager of recruitment agency Timeplan.

"Doing supply means you can keep your ear to the ground, gives you a chance to impress schools and build a good reputation.

"If someone is looking for a permanent post, we will do our very best to fix them up - but supply may be the first step towards that."

What you need to know

- If possible, go for a promotion rather than another job on the same level. Schools are less likely to question your motives for moving.

- Maths, science and English teachers usually find relocation easiest.

- Supply is a good way to build a local reputation.

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