Careers clinic

3rd October 2008 at 01:00
If you've got a problem, you know who to call - our experts, John Howson and Sara Bubb.

Q: Since I left teaching after two years in December 2005 I've been working in a bank and taking a part-time masters degree in linguistics. Next year I'd like to re-start my career as an English teacher in a secondary school or an FE college. Will I have to go through retraining and what will it involve? Will my MA be of use?

A: A gap of four years by itself should not require extensive re-training if you return to secondary teaching. Working in FE might be different, and you would need to talk to the staff development unit at any college that offered you a lecturing post. However, some local authorities do offer return to teaching courses and this might be a useful refresher course, and a means of finding a teaching post. There will have been changes to the curriculum, assessment and the introduction of diplomas since you left.

At interview, you will need to explain why you want to return having quit after just two years in teaching. Your MA might help as an example of further study, but unless you are looking for a career in that field you will need to sell its advantages in any job applications. As this is not my field, I cannot advise. Are there any other teachers on the course and, if so, why have they decided to do such an MA?

After about seven or eight years of teaching, I would expect you to have gained some responsibilities. This might be difficult to achieve on your return and you could find yourself returning to pay point 3 on the main scale (Pounds 24,048 outside London). This is something else to consider if you return to the maintained sector. Overseas schools and those in the UK serving pupils from overseas might find your linguistics study of use.

Q: What are the risks associated with taking a job outside school?

A: This depends upon the nature of the job and the type of organisation offering the post. Working as an education adviser preparing curriculum materials for a respected company or charity is probably a pretty safe bet, but new management might decide to change priorities and downgrade the work. At the more risky end of the market are posts in new companies that are related to one contract that might end at any time.

There are other points to consider, especially holidays and pension benefits. Even teachers close to the start of their careers need to realise that pension contributions made at the beginning of a career have the longest amount of time to accrue benefits and should not be discarded without taking professional advice: it seems many teachers don't fully understand the pension arrangements, which is a mistake.


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 work in the Isle of Man, but after five years here I think it may be time to move back to the mainland. I have been in teaching for 11 years and hold a Teaching and Learning Responsibility allowance, and am looking for my next move to be another step up the ladder. How do I go about convincing prospective employers? I do not want them to dismiss me because of the postal address.

A: You're sensible to be thinking about counteracting suspicions in headteachers' minds about your experience in the Isle of Man, but employers simply look for the best person for the job. You've got to demonstrate that you are, on paper and then in person.

Some headteachers only consider people serious applicants if they visit the school, which is your first hurdle. Get over this by ringing the school as soon as an advert comes out. Show an interest and find out more about what exactly is wanted over the phone. You can gather lots of information about a school by using Google.

Put effort into the application form, referring to information that you've found out about the school through your research. Use the structure of the person specification in your supporting statement and pepper it with concrete examples of what you have done that illustrate how you lead teams well and are up-to-date with the curriculum and developments in teaching.

Make sure your referees address the key issues too - things such as how much value you add to pupils and the organisation.

If you don't get shortlisted for the kind of promoted posts you want, you'll need to consider whether to make a sideways move first to get your feet under the table in English schools.

Q: You mentioned earlier this term that there were 41 core standards, but aren't there 33 standards now?

A: Who was it that said a little learning is a dangerous thing? There are 33 standards that people training have to meet to get qualified teacher status. Once you're qualified you have to meet the core standards and there are a fulsome 41 of them that you have to demonstrate to pass your induction period in England.


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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