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Your career and pay questions answered by John Howson.

Q I was a primary teacher for 13 years until last December, when I resigned to take a three-month career break to complete my MA dissertation. I have now enrolled as a supply teacher, but would like a full-time job. I'd appreciate your advice, particularly regarding the implications of my break from full-time employment on my teacher's pension.

A Congratulations on gaining your MA. There should be no long-term implications for your pension if you have a short break from teaching. You can rejoin the Teachers' Pension Scheme when you restart full-time teaching. Check with your supply agency as to the possibility of making pension payments on your supply teaching income. You may also be able to "buy in" the missing months for a small extra payment. Your MA means you can apply for a wider range of jobs. Although there are fewer primary posts on offer this year than last, your experience and additional qualification should stand you in good stead.

Q I have overseas QTS (English) and taught in a London secondary school for seven years. I left teaching in 1997, when I got a doctorate in linguistics and lectured abroad. I am now trying to get back into secondary teaching, but have not been able to get on a TTA refresher course. Is it worth applying for jobs immediately, or should I do supply work first? How do I deal with the fact that I am overqualified? What do you think is the best way to get back into teaching?

A I should explain for those who haven't come across the term that overseas Q TS is granted to teachers who trained elsewhere in the EU and have the right to work in the UK under the directives that relate to the free movement of labour. I don't see why you feel overqualified. Maybe you are more qualified than before for the teaching posts you used to have, but that's not the same. A school ought to welcome your willingness to teach, and regard you as an asset. The experience and qualifications you have gained since 1997 mean you could apply for posts with more responsibility.

Apply to supply agencies; they know the market and can advise you. Look through the jobs section of The TES. Apply for posts that meet your criteria. Sell yourself on your CV. Many heads may not know what a teacher with overseas QTS is, and won't be bothered to find out.

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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