Careers clinic

13th 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
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 thinking of quitting my career in clothing and textiles after 10 years and training to be a design and technology secondary teacher. Is there a shortage in this subject? I'm worried that I will have trouble finding a job when I finish my PGCE.

A: You don't say what your present job entails and I am wondering whether your expertise might be more useful in a college rather than a school, especially one where there are vocational courses related to the garment trade.

You could try looking in the FE jobs section of The TES as well as undertaking online searches. Training in the FE sector is still job-related, and you might find some part-time work that allowed you to carry on with your day job.

As to the possibility of finding a teaching post after qualifying, jobs are more difficult to come by in some regions, such as the South West, than others, such as London or the South East, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any. The new emphasis on diplomas and vocational courses might mean there are more opportunities in the future.

However, I urge you to think carefully about what it is that attracts you to teaching after 10 years in industry. If it is the desire to pass on knowledge and experience, then look wider than just secondary school teaching, as there are many other ways you might achieve this goal. If you want to work in a school, but haven't any experience with young people, then take steps to find out more.

Q: I'm preparing for an interview for a primary headship and wondered whether you had sample questions that governors might be encouraged to ask.

A: Questions will relate to the job, why you want it and why you are suitable and possibly your approach and vision for education. Clearly, leadership will be a focus, but that might also be looked at outside the interview. Remember, you are on show in all contacts with everyone you meet during the process, from the moment you asked for an application form.

The risk of preparing for specific questions is that your answers lack freshness and appear formulaic. This doesn't mean don't make preparations, as you clearly are doing, but don't become too anxious about specific prepared questions. However, do look for clues in what the school has said about itself and what you observe on your visit before the interview.

Remember, you are also interviewing them to see whether the school is suitable for you.


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.

Q: I had an interview recently and it went well. But the head contacted me afterwards and said she'd love to offer me the job, but that, "I think parents would have a problem with your piercing." Isn't that discrimination? It's only a nose stud.

A: Why did you go to an interview with your nose stud in? First impressions count so much and the headteacher's point of view seems perfectly understandable. I'm more worried at your reaction because it suggests that you don't understand your position as a professional, and how people see you.

Employers aren't allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, age or disability but there's no legislation about appearance or personality. They are looking for the best person for the job but might worry at the possible naivety and arrogance that turning up to an interview with body piercings in might suggest.

It's a buyers' market so you need to avoid anything that will go against you. Governing bodies are by and large rather conservative so it's best to go for a smart look that offends nobody.

Q: I'm a secondary history teacher and have been offered a job teaching history and English. In fact, I fear that most of my lessons would be English. I've been told that the majority of the timetable in your NQT year must be in the subject you trained in. Is this true?

A: In a word, no. There are no rules to say you must be teaching the subject you trained in, though it clearly makes sense to. To pass induction you have to meet all the 41 core standards in the context that you're working in and you'll find it easier to do so when teaching history than when teaching English.

How much do you want the job? You could hold out for a pure history post but there aren't many around. If you take this job you can use the induction support to which you're entitled to help you in English. But before that use the summer holidays to try to get up to speed on subject knowledge and the curriculum.

English teachers have a certain pedagogical style so try to observe some before the end of term. You could get in touch with the National Association of the Teachers of English ( and of course use the English teachers' forum on The TES website.


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.

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