Careers clinic

20th June 2008 at 01:00
Q: After a year of looking and 60 applications I am still without an interview, let alone a job
If you've got a problem, you know who to call - our experts. John Howson and Sara Bubb offer advice every week

Q: After a year of looking and 60 applications I am still without an interview, let alone a job. I'm 48 and I'm convinced that age is a factor. What do you think?

A: You don't say whether you trained as a primary or secondary teacher and in what part of the country you live. These may be key factors. At present, there is an oversupply in many subjects and most of the primary sector. However, all that might change in the next couple of years. That probably isn't much comfort to you, as you need work.

Have you discussed the problem with those who trained you? The fact that you aren't even getting an interview suggests that even though age may be a factor, there may be other issues as well, since some teachers your age find jobs.

Do you have a selling point to counteract your age by way of other experiences and skills you can offer to schools?

Eventually, you will have to consider other options. A degree plus teacher training provides you with lots of transferable skills and after nearly a year of looking now might be a time to consider your alternatives.

Q: I'm in charge of the Latin department at a state comprehensive as the sole Latin teacher. I asked the head for a Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) payment (pound;2,364-pound;5,778 a year for TLR2) but was turned down. Do you think I have a case?

A: I assume that when the school made the move from management allowances to a staffing structure based on TLRs there was a consultation with the staff. If so, it should have made clear what was happening to subjects such as Latin where there was only one teacher.

That would have been the time to clarify your position. If the subject comes under a department (say, languages) whose head of department already gets a TLR, then you may be on weak grounds.

However, if there are other departments where a TLR, albeit at the lowest level, is paid for a similar responsibility, then you might well have a case. Time, I think, to have a chat with your association representative and ask whether they need to consult someone more senior outside the school


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'm having a mini-crisis of confidence so would like to focus on my PGCE placement, have a summer break, then supply teach for two terms to get some more experience. Does this sound feasible?

A: Yes, your plan is perfectly feasible in that you're allowed to do short-term supply for up to four terms before completing induction. But you need to weigh things up carefully. Supply teaching is hard. It suits some people who have lots of experience but I found it the toughest and least rewarding work I've done in schools.

You aren't entitled to any induction support so you may flounder and find your confidence shrinking - and it doesn't sound too strong at the moment.

Another factor is whether you'll get enough work to earn sufficient money to live on. Many schools use their own staff to cover for teachers who are away because supply agencies charge a lot - and they only pass some of it on to you.

You'll be lucky to find a job starting in the summer term because there aren't many going. Then you'll be up against the competition from another 35,000 or so people out of training. Crack on with applications and look in the jobs section.

Q: I failed one of my teaching practices, but I passed my re-sit. Should I mention it when applying or not?

A: No, there is no need to mention in an application form that you had to resit a teaching practice. In fact, if you do, you'll stand little chance of being shortlisted.

People just want to know that you have qualified teacher status, or that you will have by the time they start employing you.

Go for gold on the application form, especially the supporting statement where you'll write against the job specification. Mention that you've passed the skills tests (I hope you have) as that will be something schools are twitchy about with the tighter rules coming in from September 1.

At interview you may (but may not) be asked about the disparity in the dates so you'll need to have thought through what you'll say.

Explain things concisely, putting a positive spin on the experience - how much you learnt and how you are a better teacher. That's what interviewers want to know: whether you'll be an effective teacher for their pupils. Have confidence in your abilities: you can do it.


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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