Career Clinic

27th January 2012 at 00:00
This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about taking a break and becoming a head without QTS

Career interrupted

I have made the decision to leave my current job at Easter. I am not planning on teaching in the summer term and hope to return in September. How badly do schools view a break in service? How are redundancy, conditions and sick pay affected?

In the present climate of anxiety over child protection, any break in service may be viewed negatively by a school considering your application. To overcome this potential reaction, why not arrange to do something positive during the summer term once you have stopped teaching?

Perhaps you could volunteer to teach English overseas. A different approach would be to make links with a university and see whether it is possible to undertake a formal study programme or some private research into an area that interests you. This could be in an aspect of teaching and learning or an academic subject.

Alternatively, find something else that can be described in career terms on your CV. Essentially, if you have proved you have made sensible use of the time to further your career, it will prevent any awkward suppositions being made during the shortlisting process.

In relation to your conditions of service: your basic salary stays the same despite any break in service, minus any teaching and learning responsibility payment. Unless, that is, you are offered a post in a school outside the national pay and conditions framework - for example, a free school or some academies.

However, when it comes to the terms of sick leave and redundancy pay, the clock goes back to zero after a break in service. This means you start all over again and any accrued benefits are lost. The only possible exception is if you find another post in a school in the same authority as the school you are leaving, which means your employer would technically be the same.

Qualification concerns

I am 41 and have taught in schools and colleges since 2000. I have a Certificate in Education and am starting my doctorate in education. However, I do not have QTS (qualified teacher status). I am now thinking about my future. I am currently in a management role across a group of schools; will a lack of QTS be a barrier even if I have completed the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH)?

You raise a number of interesting questions about who will be able to lead the schools of the future. The recent government announcement that the NPQH will no longer be a mandatory qualification for headship opens that post up to a wider range of candidates. Technically, headship has never required QTS, although it has seemingly been very difficult to access an NPQH course without the qualification.

Philosophically, there are different views about whether a headteacher ought to be the leading professional - like, say, the editor of a newspaper or a senior partner in a law firm - or a manager with a wide range of skills and appropriate expertise in general management.

The larger the institution, the easier it is to justify the second of these two models. In a small primary school where the head teaches three days a week, there is no question about the need for QTS. However, if that school is federated with others, does the executive head still require it?

This is an interesting debate, but for your purposes it will depend on how those making headship appointments react to the changing landscape. My guess - and it is only a guess - is that, where there are sufficient candidates with QTS, it will be more challenging for someone like you.

Nevertheless, with more than a decade of experience in schools you could no doubt create a philosophy of education that would be attractive to some governing bodies, providing you recognise the essential task of a school and say how you can help move the institution forward.

Professor John Howson is our resident career expert, with 40 years in education, including spells as a teacher, academic, school recruitment researcher and government adviser.

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