Your career and pay questions answered by John Howson

Q I am a fully qualified primary school teacher and intend to work as a supply on a temporary basis for the first time from this September. What is the best way to go about obtaining work? Should I join an agency or approach the LEA or schools, direct? Is there a useful read on this topic? I stopped making pension contributions some months ago - how do I go about rejoining the scheme?

A It is difficult to give a general answer as much will depend on where you live. In some parts of the UK, such as London and much of the south-east, the large national supply agencies offer a well recognised route into supply teaching. Elsewhere, the market is often less well developed and smaller local agencies may serve particular groups of schools or LEAs. Whether or not you send your CV to LEAs or schools depends on what type of supply work you are looking for.

As a supply teacher you will need to discuss pensions with your employer. This could be a supply agency, the school, or the LEA. You would be well advised to join a pension scheme as soon as you return to work. Seek professional advice as to whether you join one of the new stakeholder pension schemes or return to the traditional teachers' pension.

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Q I have been successfully running my own company for four years, but wish to return to teaching. Who do I give as a referee, as my teaching references are six years old?

A Assuming you have used an accountant in your business, you might ask him or her to act as a referee to confirm your earnings and your position. If your business relates in any way to your teaching specialism, a client can provide a reference on your aptitude. Your most recent teaching reference(s) will be required to verify your classroom skills and so on. You might consider a Return to Teaching course funded by the Teacher Training Agency to get you back into the system.

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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