Q. I'm in my third year of teaching and am thinking ahead in terms of career progression. I love being in the classroom, so I have no strong aspirations for management.

I would like to develop as an Excellent Teacher or Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) - but what are the options for teachers outside of London?

Will the changes to the AST programme mean that in a few years when I could be ready, there will be no funding or opportunities to join the scheme?

A. You don't say whether you are a primary or secondary teacher. This makes a difference.

About two-thirds of the relatively limited numbers of AST posts available are in the secondary sector, with the other third split between primary and special schools.

Even in the secondary sector many AST posts are only in a limited range of subjects. Unless you work in an authority that values ASTs and has a policy for encouraging them, you may be met, if not with blank stares when you mention the idea, but certainly with uncertainty.

It is too early yet to say how the Excellent Teacher grade will develop, but early indications are that schools are not making much use of the grade, at least as far as external advertising is concerned.

You are only in your third year of teaching, so you still have some learning to do before you can aspire to be either an AST or an Excellent Teacher.

You will also need to undertake some further professional development to increase your knowledge of the theory and practice of teaching.

It may be that a higher degree would be worth considering. Also, find out about the Fast Track scheme and see whether it can be of any help.

I cannot really say whether the AST scheme will still be in existence when you are ready to apply, as although it has now been running for nearly a decade, a change in Government policy could end it at any time.

However, I can be certain there will be opportunities to benefit from any investment you make in developing your career, even if not as an AST.

And, don't forget, even though you have decided against management as a career route, you may change your mind for various reasons at some point in the future John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes university. To ask him a question, email him at

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