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Your career and pay questions answered

Q I was employed in a school in London for three years before moving abroad to teach in an international school. Last year, when I applied for a new post, the prospective employer was unable to obtain a reference from my first school. I learned, eventually, that no reference was on file for me and that all the senior staff including my former head of department had left the school. The local authority has advised me that it can provide only the dates when I was employed, and that schools are not required to hold references on teachers. As you can imagine, my career could be severely impeded if I can't provide a reference for three years of my professional life. What should I do?

A It is often the case that not all your ideal referees may be available to you when you are seeking to change jobs. Clearly, your present employer can write about your current performance, but you might believe that you need a reference from someone in England to demonstrate your competence in teaching the national curriculum. In that case, a reference from the institution where you trained might do; presumably it helped get you the post in London in the first place. If you think you need to clarify your position, you could add a note to the application form explaining why you haven't provided a reference from the London school. As your career progresses and you acquire plenty of people you can call upon to act in this capacity, this will cease to be an issue.

Q I am a deputy headteacher in an independent school. I have been looking into applying for the national professional qualification for headship but my school won't finance me on the reasonable assumption that after gaining the qualification I will gain a headship and leave the school. Is there any other source of funding, or will I have to pay the pound;3,000 myself?

A Sadly, I think you will have to pay. However, your head may be shortsighted in not offering any help. Schools with good staff development policies can usually attract more applicants. This makes sound business sense and is good for retention as it certainly improves morale.

John Howson is visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and managing director of Education Data Surveys. Send your career questions to him at

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