Your career and pay questions answered by John Howson.

Q I am in the fourth year of teaching, and on spine point 5. When the new pay structure comes into effect in September 2002, does it mean I move to M3 and receive no pay rise?

A When the pay review body reported earlier this year, it reduced the number of points to six. But all existing nine points received a pay rise. If you are on point 5, your salary will have risen to pound;20,514 as of April 1. If you receive an experience point in September, it will be taken into account. This would move you to point 6, or pound;21,591. Point 6 is likely to be assimilated at the new M4 spinal point. The final statutory order has yet to be made. On the new scale, you have two more years before reaching the top and assessment to transfer to the upper pay scale.

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

AThe 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 career question for him? Email:

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