Career Clinic

18th November 2011 at 00:00
This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about switching to primary and going part-time

My job no longer exists

I have been a school sports co-ordinator for five years. Now this role has died a death, trying to get a PE role is proving extremely difficult and I am thinking of switching to primary. What should I do in order to give myself more selling power?

There are many people like you who left mainstream teaching for what seemed like a good career move, but now find themselves stranded because, sadly, certain funded posts have disappeared.

Your qualified teacher status (QTS) entitles you to teach primary, but, generally speaking, no retraining is available. Your level of experience also means you face the issue of being expensive to hire, which would also exist if you tried to return to secondary teaching.

The usual routes into primary are either through contacts you have built up as a school sports co-ordinator or through supply work. However, the latter is not as common as it was in the past.

I think your chances of returning to full-time PE are remote in the present climate, except possibly at the level of head of department, where your wider experience may be a selling point in itself.

If you have some redundancy pay, it might be worth investing it in some full-time continuing professional development while the job market settles down, and also to give yourself a chance to widen your network of contacts.

Depending on where you live - and I assume you don't want to relocate - you might need to apply for everything in sight and take what you are offered. But I doubt there will be much main-scale work around for someone on your pay grade, assuming you left teaching at or above the top of the main scale. If you do not return to teaching quickly it may damage your career for some time to come, possibly permanently. Sorry.

The mother of all changes

I am a languages teacher at a secondary school, yet since my return from maternity leave I have struggled to "gel" with the department. I want to go part-time to spend more time with my child, and there are some primary positions advertised with languages. Can I apply?

You are not alone in feeling as you do after returning from maternity leave. The school has moved on, and you don't feel you fit in as you did. This is quite understandable, but what you suggest is a radical solution.

Your QTS is transferrable, so you can apply for any post in the primary sector, but you will keep your present pay level minus any teaching and learning responsibility points you might be receiving in your present role. Even so, you may be expensive for a primary school to employ. Some schools that teach languages might welcome you, even though you are expensive, especially a large primary with a bigger budget.

It might be worth having a chat with a couple of heads of feeder primaries, who will understand the local job market better than I do. They can assess your chances, and whether the alternative of looking for another secondary school might be more sensible. Part-time posts are more common in the primary sector than in secondary schools, but many jobs will be for early-years teachers, rather than key stage 2 teachers, as school rolls are rising fastest among the youngest pupils.

You also need to think about your longer-term future as, once your family has grown up sufficiently for you to want to resume a full-time career, it may be difficult to do so as anything other than a classroom teacher. Part-time jobs can also have a habit of being more demanding than you expect. Good luck.

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


Ramsden, S. Richardson, FM. Josse, G. Thomas, MSC. Ellis, C. Shakeshaft, C. Seghier, ML. and Price, CJ. "Verbal and Non-verbal Intelligence Changes in the Teenage Brain", Nature, October 2011.

Deary, IJ. Whalley, LJ. Crawford, JR. and Starr, JM. The Stability of Individual Differences in Mental Ability from Childhood to Old Age: follow-up of the 1932 Scottish Mental Survey.


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