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Your career and pay questions answered

Q I left my position as a deputy head at the end of December 2001 and have been working as a supply teacher since. I am currently looking for a full-time permanent position from September. Until the summer of 2001, I had an unblemished career. I was forced to leave my last post for the sake of my health, as I was diagnosed with depression. I am now fully recovered.

However, I am concerned that I left my last full-time post after only a term, and my former head refuses to speak to me.

I have good references but, in a small authority, I wonder if heads talk unofficially to each other and if my last headteacher may be unfairly representing me? How do I explain this episode in my career to future employers?

A It doesn't matter how many employment laws there are, you can never stop headteachers and other managers talking to each other, especially in a small authority. You don't say whether you worked for the same authority before you became ill, or whether you have also been a supply teacher in that authority. Any of those good experiences may help to bolster your profile with potential employers.

However, you may wish to reflect upon what type of post you are looking for. Are you trying to return to deputy headships, or would you be happy with a classroom teacher post? If it's the latter, then you may want to consider being candid on your application form and say that you tried a deputy headship but found it wasn't for you, at least in that school. If your health record has always been good, and you have worked consistently as a supply teacher for the past year, say so. Also, ask whoever finds you supply work either to act as a referee or to provide a transcript of your work record over the past year. It may be that taking a step back may allow you to move forward in the future.

It is worth talking to an adviser, or someone else from the authority who may either know of you or be able to access accurate information on your career. You should be candid with them in asking for career advice. Also, have you undertaken any professional development in the past year? Improving your employability may make you more attractive to schools in what, in some parts of the country, is becoming an increasingly competitive job market.

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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