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Dear Ted

Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own

I am 53 and desperate to return to teaching, but it seems impossible, as I am on the upper pay scale plus threshold. Have budget cuts made me unemployable?

Ted says

You are not unemployable, but it may be difficult getting a job in a school that is short of cash. Paradoxically, having already demonstrated that you pass muster by going through the threshold and progressing along the upper pay scale, you now have to prove your worth over again.

Many teachers have become victims of the market created in education when budgets were fixed according to average salaries, making it difficult for those at the top of the scales, as new teachers were cheaper.

It is important that you keep your self-esteem, even though you have been rejected. Remain buoyant and optimistic, as there is nothing worse at interview than a teacher who appears bitter and resentful.

Your trump card is experience. But it will count only if your application shows you have something to offer your new school. Would you introduce extra activities? Are you involved with parents and the community? Get a friendly head to read through what you have written. Merely stating you are a seasoned pro is not enough. The school has to decide if you are worth the extra salary costs.

If necessary, phone any school where your application has been unsuccessful and ask the head for feedback. You may get some answers that will help your next application.

Finally, stick at it. You are at the height of your powers and could do another 12 years, or more if the retirement age goes up.

You say

In the same boat

I left my job last July for personal reasons (not health) and now wish to return. I am 55 and have been teaching since 1969. I have been a head of year and head of department, and can teach ICT, design and technology and business studies to A-level, and have a track record of success. I have applied for several jobs in vain, the usual rejection phrase being "a very strong field".

I have done supply in a school that was honest enough to say it wanted to keep me but I was too expensive. Few schools can now afford to pay me at the salary I deserve after 34 years in the profession. They are looking for cheap teachers and using assistants to cover gaps.

I want to teach and feel I am being excluded from a profession that, despite all that has happened over the years, I love.

Mark Davis, by email

We should all get the rate for the job

This dilemma merely illustrates the folly of incremental scales. Job evaluation would have (and historically has) revealed the worth of the teacher's role. Why, then, pay some teachers more, just because they happen to have been doing the job longer? To put it more positively, why pay a new entrant less? There is no evidence the job is any different, and if it is, there should be a transparent and fair way of structuring a fair rewards package.

A decent professional rate for all teachers (the rate for the job) would eliminate the situation faced by the middle-aged, top-of-the-scale returner who has been effectively priced out of a job simply by virtue of longevity.

P Dale, Worthing, West Sussex

Broaden your horizons

The UK has education systems that are organised and financed in ways other than those in England. The former Strathclyde Regional Council in Scotland charged schools a uniform rate for unpromoted teachers. The aim was to prevent discrimination against those higher up the pay scale. Teachers were paid at the rate applicable to their individual points on the scale - they got the pay to which they were entitled. This practice continues.

In Scotland, education remains the responsibility of the councils. Budgets are devolved to individual school level, but some funding is retained centrally for such matters as the levelling out of salaries.

Alasdair Macdonald, Glasgow

There's sense in SEN

I suggest you try the special needs unit of any mainstream school, especially secondary, where difficulties are magnified by adolescence and a rigid curriculum. I am sure you will be welcomed with open arms. I was.

Barbara Follows, by email

Coming up: Keen to be a primary teacher but no one wants to know "I have been trying since May to find a job as a primary teacher. I've sent letters to more than 60 schools, joined several supply agencies, and even featured in the local paper. I feel I've been duped by the Government."

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