Career clinic

15th June 2012 at 01:00
This week Professor John Howson answers questions about early promotion and deadlines for giving notice

A step too soon?

Is it wise to apply for a head-of-year position after completing two years as a teacher?

The answer has to be "no", especially in the present job market, where the majority of posts are subject to fierce competition. After just two years' teaching, you are still learning the intricacies of the job and, although you may already be a good teacher, it will take several more years for you to become a fully-rounded practitioner.

Also, posts responsible for the teaching and learning of a group of pupils, such as a head-of-year role, require skills in addition to being a good classroom teacher.

For instance, irrespective of the year group, there are going to be greater demands in relation to meeting parents than most subject teachers experience, even in their role as a form tutor. If the head of year is also the first stop for disciplinary issues for class teachers, then you need to be sufficiently secure in your behaviour management to have the respect of your colleagues.

This does not mean that you shouldn't be considering taking on some responsibility after two years, but in most schools this would be too big a step up after such a short period of time, in my opinion.

A role as an assistant head of year working under the guidance of a head of year might be more manageable for a year or two before moving on to the full role. Even in well-led schools with good results, it is amazing what can land on the desk of a head of year in the course of a typical week. You could also use the time to acquire some professional development associated with the role if this really is the route you want to pursue in your career.

When can I resign?

I know I have missed the 31 May deadline for leaving in September, but if I want to leave after the October half-term, when is the latest I can hand in my notice? I have a late interview for a job this month, and I am considering leaving teaching altogether.

Normally, teachers are required to provide at least two months' notice if they are planning to leave at the end of term in December or April, or three months if they are intending to leave in August after the end of the summer term.

This is set out in the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document. However, since the government seems not to place a high value on the pay-related conditions in that document - notably cutting academies free from it - there is a case for saying that the leaving dates are effectively no longer much more than guidance. In any case, the introduction of four- and six-term year arrangements in many parts of the country will have rendered them obsolete in places.

However, anyone thinking of leaving the profession might well wonder what sanctions a school could impose if they chose to resign at a different time of year. Your head might refuse to write a reference or might suggest you had broken your contract, but if a new employer had already offered you a job and was keen for you to start as soon as possible, so what? It might not matter if you didn't envisage returning to teaching.

Obviously, for a teacher moving to another school, this situation is less likely to arise since most heads accept that the system works best with the standard end-of-term handover dates.

Nevertheless, since some teachers go sick, have accidents and even start maternity leave in the middle of terms, it is worth reminding an intransigent head of these facts, although looking at it from their perspective, the fewer unscheduled changeovers there are, the better the school is likely to be for everyone.

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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