Dear Ted

Ted says It is best to negotiate your salary before, rather than after, accepting a job. Otherwise you put yourself and the head in a difficult and embarrassing situation. Once you have started, the head and governors will inevitably feel that other teachers will want a pay rise if the newcomer gets one.

There are no hard and fast rules about recognising prior experience in industry, commerce or other forms of employment. The two influential factors are market forces and the nature of your previous jobs. Market forces can be cruel. If you are a maths specialist and the only applicant for a vacancy, the school may treat you more generously than a non-shortage subject applicant on a shortlist of five, three of whom are perfectly appointable.

It shouldn't be like this, but it often is. Similarly, the relevance of your work experience may help. If you are applying for a post as a music co-ordinator, experience as a professional musician could be seen as a distinct plus, whereas five years selling brushes, interesting and lucrative though it may have been, will be regarded as less sexy. It is up to you to point out any relevance.

Why not give yourself a year in which to prove to the school that it has made a rattling good appointment and has really gained from your background, then try again? Learn from your present experience and make sure next time you move that all is sealed beforehand. You might be able to raise the issue again if your school gets "earned autonomy", a notion going through Parliament which will allow schools to ignore national pay and conditions (though they may not have the money to pay more). Manchester United have the problem that, if they pay David Beckham pound;100,000 a week, the other players may want it. Dream on.

You say Prove you've got what it takes Although you don't say so, presumably you have just obtained a job in a primary school, and the governors are starting you off on point 2, which is the usual starting point for a new teacher with a degree. Although you may have considerable experience in one or more jobs outside education, this is not necessarily going to make you a better teacher; indeed, you could be a disaster when faced with 30 lively youngsters. Nevertheless, the experience of other jobs may make your teaching a little richer. In my view, it takes a minimum of three years (in the classroom - not at college) to become a fully trained and competent teacher. There are a huge number of people skills, classroom techniques and curriculum issues to be learned and absorbed. NQTs also initially find the work immensely tiring and relentless, and more often than not a school has to put into a NQT a great deal more than it gets out, until the teacher finds his or her feet. Skilful and productive teaching comes with experience. Prove yourself for a couple of years, then you'll have something to negotiate with.

Primary head, email It's not just about you There is enough division in staffrooms, what with performance-related pay, without NQTs adding to it by parading about with their golden hellos, or demanding extra money simply because they are older and wiser. Rather than just thinking about yourself, think about how you can help to improve the pay and conditions of all teachers. I also entered teaching later in life. I reckon I also had considerable experience "outside education" - I had worked as a journalist and bus driver. I went to university at 35 and began teaching on point 2. Three years later I'm certainly not content with my pay. I think we should all be paid moreI but I want to see a big improvement in pay for all teachers, not just myself.

Philip Forrester, London Talk to your head It's a pity to kick off your teaching career on the wrong note. On the face of it, point 2 on the scale does seem low. Going to your union (if you have one) will not strike the right chord for your future with the school, but it will be a source of information and precedent and may give you evidence to support your case. Armed with this information, make an appointment to see your head - although I expect you will need to compromise. The headteacher will support your case with the governors if she values you.

Bob Fletcher, west London Bide your time Welcome to the profession; it is encouraging to hear of people coming in rather than leaving. But you are not the first to find yourself in this position, nor, I fear, will you be the last. This is a grey area and one that should be tidied up by the School Teachers' Review Body. The essential question is - what experience? If your experience involves working with children, then yes, it will count. But if it's outside this field, it shouldn't.

The compressed scale also means you only have four years to go until you are at the top of the scale - so even if you are only on point 2 rather than point 1, you're doing all right.

My advice is to forget all about it-it really isn't worth spoiling relationships over something that has such an uncertain outcome at such an early stage. If you're worth your salt, there are plenty of other ways the governors can reward you in time.

Mick Brookes, email

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