Career Clinic

21st October 2011 at 01:00
This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about switching sectors and returning to the classroom

Jump between sectors in PE

I am currently in my second year of teaching PE to 11 to 16-year-olds, but I have a keen interest in primary PE, especially as it appears to have a number of problems which we then see when the pupils come up to secondary. For that reason, I would like to switch to become a primary teacher with a specialism in PE. If I could take the majority of a school's PE, or take the lead on it, I think I could help as I know from the research that most primary teachers struggle. However, I don't think it would be easy for me to get a job as a primary teacher as that is not how I was trained. I was thinking about applying for a graduate teacher programme (GTP), but how will that work if I am already qualified and on main pay scale 2? Is this the right decision? And could I return to secondary?

PE teacher, England

No, you cannot undertake a funded GTP because you already have qualified teacher status. But your qualification is transferable between sectors. As a result, you can either try to find supply work in primary schools to build up experience or apply for posts you see advertised, and see whether a school will hire you.

Some academies are three-to-18 and may welcome someone with your desire to improve the transfer between primary and secondary. However, unless you live in a large city or are willing to move to one, it is unlikely that you will find a post in the primary sector with a specialism in PE. Primaries are just too small in most cases to be able to offer such posts, and you would be expected to teach the full range of subjects to a class of pupils.

Although a period in primary might not hamper a return to the secondary sector, it could be difficult as a classroom teacher unless you could convince a school that you had the necessary experience for a promoted post.

I would only try to make the move if you really see your future in the primary sector. Or perhaps if you eventually want to work outside the classroom in an advisory or inspection-type role or in some other ancillary position which this Government may eventually develop once it considers the importance of PE and sport in education.

Keen to get back into teaching

I gained qualified teacher status following my PGCE (primary) course in 1993 and worked as a peripatetic music teacher in both primary and secondary settings for 15 years and have spent the past year working in administration. Many aspects of my job are enjoyable, but I really miss teaching and am desperate to get a job as a classroom teacher again. I would prefer primary, but would certainly consider secondary. I realise that there is a lot of competition out there and have been considering whether I should apply for a job as a teaching assistant (TA) to give me some recent and relevant experience. I am already in the process of organising a week's placement in a local school. I would be grateful for your opinion about whether you think I have any chance at all in this competitive climate.

Administrator, Wales

There have been a lot of changes since you were last in the classroom and there are many more-recently qualified candidates searching for teaching jobs. I think anything like a TA post that helps you return to the classroom setting can only help, but by how much it is difficult to judge.

A school that values music may well see some added benefit in your background and experience, whereas those only looking for classroom teachers may feel there are more-recently qualified people available.

You could contact the Training and Development Agency for Schools ( and ask whether it is funding any "return to teaching" courses in your area, although I suspect such activities may fall victim to the current climate of cuts.

If you were paid as a qualified teacher during the 15 years you worked as a peripatetic music teacher, you will also be expensive for a school to employ since you cannot surrender any of the salary points on the main scale or upper pay spine unless you take a job in the private sector or at an academy or "additional" school that does not pay agreed national pay rates.

Depending on where you live, I think your chances or returning to the classroom may be limited unless you either use the supply route to build up a local reputation or find a school that values your music expertise.

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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