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I am an English graduate applying for the fast track programme to begin in September this year. I am keen to get as much experience before the course as possible. Could I work as a classroom assistant in a primary school full-time or part-time between March and September?

Yes, I think getting a job as a classroom assistant is a good idea. You could also apply for work as a special needs assistant or individual support assistant, which would involve your working intensively with a child with physical, learning or behavioural needs, under the direction of the teacher.

All these will give you a useful insight into how schools work and, importantly, how children learn - and the obstacles that get in the way. It will also give you more to talk about at interview and in the fas track assessments.

Many assistants' jobs are part-time and are often on an hourly rate - schools tend to want people to support literacy and numeracy which are generally taught in the morning. You will find them advertised in local papers, and most education authorities also publish a list of vacancies, so you need to join the mailing list as soon as possible. People in your position often start as a volunteer if they can't find a position, and are then given a job when one arises.

The pay, however, is very low - pound;5 to pound;7 an hour - so you might want to work part-time at your present job to build up your savings.

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