Careers clinic

6th June 2008 at 01:00
If you've got a problem, you know who to call. No, not the Ghostbusters, John Howson and Sara Bubb have much more useful advice

Q:I'm in my sixth year teaching and wondering whether I am experienced enough to apply for deputy head positions. I love my job with a passion and have recently taken up a middle management position as inclusion leader. I'm also parental involvement leader and a lead practitioner.

I feel confident I could perform well as a deputy head, but know my lack of experience could put me at a disadvantage. I don't want to start applying for jobs I have no hope of getting.

A: Go for it, we need leaders like you. The only thing you haven't mentioned is any professional development you have undertaken that would have strengthened your academic profile. There are lots of small schools where you should have enough experience to fit in as a deputy, and some larger ones where an assistant headship might be a sensible next move.

Look at the National College for School Leadership website ( where you will find some advice that will be of help. Don't think just about deputy headship, consider where your career will go after that. Although the Fast Track scheme has ended, you are an obvious candidate for accelerated development for headship. If you can, also talk about your career ambitions to a senior adviser in the local authority, or the diocese if yours is a church school. Best wishes - I won't say good luck, as you shouldn't need it.

Q:I've spent the past 10 years bringing up a family and want to retrain to become a chemistry teacher (I was an accountant before having children). I would like to work part-time because of family commitments - is this a problem?

A: There is a shortage of science teachers, particularly physics and chemistry teachers, but falling rolls have made it difficult for some schools to create as many vacancies as they would like. For this reason, some prefer part-time staff for the flexibility they provide, whereas others worry about the problems they bring with timetabling, especially in secondary schools.

I found five institutions offering part-time teacher training for would-be chemistry teachers (visit and use the course search for details). However, even part-time courses usually need to process cohorts of students within specific time periods to qualify for funding, so they may not be as flexible as you would like.

Alternatively, you might try the further education sector, where part-time work is much more common.

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training. He is now a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask John a question, email

Q:I've just heard on the grapevine that the school I've got a job in for September has gone into special measures. How does this affect my induction?

A: Yikes, poor you. Well, schools in special measures have to be given permission to employ teachers on induction so ask the headteacher whether the inspectors have concluded that it's a suitable place.

Ask how your support, monitoring and assessment will work. Ironically, new teachers often get a Rolls Royce package when schools are in special measures as the scrutiny is so great. Sometimes the school buys in extra people to support you. You'll be observed lots but most new teachers are used to this, and so aren't bothered by it. In fact many new teachers find their feedback helpful.

If things don't go well, be proactive in raising issues with the induction tutor, then the headteacher and then the local authority. People should be looking out for you so that you don't suffer as a result of the state the school is in.

If everyone is working hard to improve the school, you might find that the staff are incredibly supportive and that there's a fabulous team spirit, albeit in a rather desperate Dunkirk kind of way. And you will have plenty of evidence of the difference you make.

Q:I'm in the third term of a temporary job teaching German. My school says that it won't need me after July. What happens to my pay during the summer holidays? Also, if I can't get another position for September and do supply work instead, will I be eligible for my golden hello at the start of my second year's teaching?

A: For the purposes of salary arrangements, the Burgundy Book (which sets out conditions of service) defines the summer term as ending on August 31 so you should get paid during the holiday unless your school gives out non-standard contracts - it's always worth reading the small print.

You can claim the golden hello (pound;2,500 for a languages teacher) if you're eligible for it (having completed a postgraduate initial teacher training course) as soon as you have another post teaching languages in a maintained school for at least a term.

You can't claim it if you're working for a supply agency: you have to be employed by a school or local authority, and the form has to be signed by the headteacher. Enjoy the extra cash when it comes.

Sara Bubb was a primary teacher before becoming a teacher trainer. She is now an education consultant, lectures at the Institute of Education in London and has written extensively on induction and professional development. To ask Sara a question, email

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