Career clinic

24th February 2012 at 00:00
This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about job hunting and progression in a specialist area

Graduate grievance

I graduated from university in 2010 with a degree in primary teaching with English. I have applied for nearly 100 roles since then and cannot get a job in teaching. I have only had two interviews and I am losing my interest in teaching because of this. What can I do?

I am sorry to hear of your predicament and I am sure you are aware that you are not alone in struggling to find a teaching post.

Consider contacting the university or college careers service where you trained for advice on other jobs working with young people. What Do Graduates Do? ( gives a broad oversight of the job market and may spark some other possibilities in your mind.

I have always maintained that a teaching degree, with its work-based placement, equips teachers with skills that those on traditional degree courses do not acquire. These are the same "soft" skills that employers keep saying they cannot find in graduates. But then those same employers seem to prize other factors when it comes down to actually making job offers.

Jobs - both inside and outside of teaching - are not evenly spread across the country, and much may depend on the state of the local labour market where you live. There are, for instance, probably too many primary-trained teachers in the North West, even with the increase in the birth rate now starting to be noticeable in rising primary school rolls.

Longer term, the good news is that there will be some 700,000 more primary pupils in schools by 2020, taking the numbers to the highest levels since the 1970s. Even with slightly larger classes, that is going to require a lot more teachers than at present. But sadly, that is of no immediate help to you and many others.

Making a mark in music

I would like to know how I can progress. I am a music specialist in a primary school teaching whole-class music. I do not have qualified teacher status, although I am paid above the main scale. I have management responsibility for four other members of staff who are also music specialists.

One obvious route is for the school to either find you a place on a graduate teacher programme (GTP) or to create an unfunded programme for you to obtain qualified teacher status (QTS). This is assuming that you meet the basic criteria of degree plus appropriate GCSE qualifications.

Without QTS, your options for promotion inside the primary sector may be limited. With QTS, you could apply for a management post, but a lack of general classroom experience may hold you back.

The alternative is to seek more specialised work in the music field. Traditionally, there have been a number of routes funded through local authorities and government schemes. However, these alternatives have withered away as career options because funds have been channelled to schools.

If you can prove success through your current scheme, then you could take the risk and set up as a private consultant offering the service to schools. Or you could suggest to your head that you create an outreach service while employed by the school and jointly agree a business plan.

Alternatively, you could create a joint venture, each bearing some of the risk, with your income partly linked to the success of the scheme. But this is a form of profit-sharing and profit is a word that raises strong emotions in education.

In the meantime, you could develop your links with others in the music world interested in education, and new opportunities may open up in what is a specialist field. If a government minister is keen on music and likes your scheme, who knows where it may lead. But you will have to feel comfortable with a degree of self-promotion if you are going to "sell" any scheme successfully.

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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