Help!

Your career and pay questions answered by John Howson

Q After a five-year break from teaching, I am thinking of returning part-time in September. Can I rejoin the Teachers' Pension Scheme?

A The Teachers' Pension Scheme is a final salary scheme, so those who pay into it receive a fraction of their final salary on retirement depending on the number of years they have paid into it. Many private companies prefer so-called "money purchase schemes", which require contributors to purchase an annuity on retirement. Final-salary schemes are regarded as offering better protection against future inflation, especially when the pension is index-linked, as is the teachers' scheme. Part-time teachers aren't required to join but have the option. Take professional advice on what is best for you in your circumstances.

Q I have been teaching for seven years and have changed schools twice. I would like to widen my experience by spending a year abroad, possibly in the United States. What are my options, and will my career prospects be affected?

A It shouldn't be a barrier to your career, especially if you travel abroad for only one year. The British Council administers an exchange scheme (see www.britishcouncil.org education) that allows you to keep your current teaching post - with the consent of your headteacher. Alternatively, The TES often carries advertisements from companies offering teaching assignments in the US. Make sure any organisation is reputable. Check that it can arrange work permits.

Q I am a geography teacher relocating to the north-east in the autumn. What are my chances of finding a new post?

A The number of vacancies for secondary geography teachers has been rising. In January this year, the DfES calculated that there were 70 vacancies for geography teachers, compared with 51 the previous year. There are likely to be fewer posts later in the autumn term so a September move might be helpful.

John Howson is visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and managing director of Education Data Surveys. Do you have a question for him? Email: susan.young@newsint.co.uk.

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