Career Clinic

7th October 2011 at 01:00
This week, headteacher Teresa Tunnadine advises on managing timetables and professional development

Swamped by a full timetable

I'm 55 and struggling to maintain momentum in school with a full timetable. What is the best way to talk to senior management about it? Are there possible ways to gain a lighter, more manageable timetable without financial sacrifices?

French teacher, Hertfordshire

I am sure you are not alone in feeling this way, and there are various things you can do here. I would start by talking to your headteacher and head of department about the way you feel and exploring any options, including reducing your teaching commitment.

How your school reacts will depend on whether there is any spare teaching capacity in your department, whether the school is looking to cut staffing costs, and how difficult it would be to replace you with a part-timer - sadly for you, this is not always easy to do.

However, I am sure your colleagues will want to do what they can to support you and try to reduce the pressure you find yourself under. It is not in anybody's interests - particularly not the pupils' - for you to be feeling this way.

It may be that adjusting the classes you teach could help, or taking on another role, if only for part of the time, such as one-to-one tuition - if that kind of position is available.

Bear in mind that if you significantly reduced your teaching load, you would inevitably reduce your income. You might want to find out about early-retirement options in which you can take your pension early and after a matter of days return to teaching a lighter timetable if the school agrees to this. However, in this case there would be actuarial reductions in your overall pension.

You can get information and advice on these issues from Teachers' Pension (www.teacherspensions.co.uk). Its website is very useful as a starting point and you can arrange to talk to someone over the phone about your particular circumstances. Your teaching union may also be able to offer advice about early retirement.

Best of luck with this - and let's hope you manage to resolve these difficulties so that you can enjoy the job for the rest of your career in teaching.

Keen on career development

I'm about to start my NQT year and would like to propose continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities to my school. So far, they have not been forthcoming about ways I can develop, so I would like to be proactive. Where are the best places to find valuable CPD for English NQTs?

English teacher, Bristol

It's not clear if you have already been involved with the school (for example, on teaching practice). If not, how do you know they aren't forthcoming? Give them a chance. If you already know the school, you are in a better position to discuss induction. After all, the school has a responsibility to make this as effective as possible for you. However, approach this in a low-key way; you don't want them to think you are too high-maintenance.

The best training opportunities are "on the job", and schools are cutting down on use of external courses and developing CPD within the school. A comprehensive induction for NQTs is available in most schools, and you may have discussed this at interview. Induction, often held once a week after school for NQTs, includes a range of activities, such as: being observed and receiving feedback on aspects of your teaching; observing colleagues (some outside your department, particularly outstanding practitioners); and discussion of those observations with another experienced colleague (this is great CPD). The programme should build on knowledge from your teaching practices, but deal with issues within the context of your new school, including Assessment for Learning or new behaviour strategies.

Your head of department should be meeting you weekly and going through an English-specific induction, including schemes of work and marking and moderating, and perhaps time management. You may also be able to attend Inset provided by the relevant exam boards.

For educational resources, get into the habit of using the wealth of these available on the internet, including those at www.tes.co.uk. Your head of department and colleagues should be able to provide links to other resources.

Some schools provide access to an in-school MA, or you might find a local higher education institution runs one. Make the most of these opportunities - and if your school does not already arrange visits to departments in other local schools, you might find your colleagues open to the idea if you suggest it.

Teresa Tunnadine is head of Compton School in Finchley, London, and a National Leader of Education.

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