Careers clinic

17th October 2008 at 01:00
This week's questions include whether to start a business, how to challenge a `sink or swim culture and the implications of inspection.

Q:I'm a primary teacher but I also run a successful after-school speech and drama business. I now want to develop my career in training adults - do you think teacher training institutions would be interested in what I have to offer?

A: The first question you have to ask yourself is: do you want to work for yourself and build a business or are you prepared to work for someone who might not always agree with your views? If the views you hold are key to what you do, there is a risk in becoming involved with a larger organisation that will require you to take on a range of responsibilities.

I am not a specialist in your field so I cannot say whether a teacher training institution would be interested in your expertise, but they should be mindful of your obvious drive and enthusiasm.

However, most initial teacher training (ITT) is located in higher education and often requires progress on, if not completion of, a higher degree from new entrants. This helps to bring together the practical and theoretical and provides evidence of study at a higher level than the pupils will be undertaking.

There are two possible ways forward. You could make contact with someone in the ITT world who teaches drama at primary and secondary levels and ask their advice. Alternatively, contact your subject association for advice and someone you could talk to about career options. A further thought: have you considered the advisory teacher route with a local authority? Although drama is a subject area that is growing, competition for any post is likely to be fierce and openings may be few and far apart. Your achievement to date suggests you have the talent to succeed.

Q:I'm completing my graduate teacher training programme in secondary English and looking at becoming an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST). How do I go about this and when can I apply?

A: AST posts are hard to come by, although there are more in English than in many other subjects. They normally require good teaching skills as well as subject knowledge, and it may be that you will need several years' teaching experience and some additional career development before you would be shortlisted for such a post.

It seems to me that subject knowledge is at least as interesting to you and possibly more so than subject application and pedagogic knowledge. For an AST, you would probably need advanced skills in all of these. Visit for ideas of what is expected of an AST.

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:My school is on red alert for being inspected this term. If an inspector observes me, will I fail my induction year if the lesson doesn't go well?

A: In a word, no. The only person who makes the recommendation about whether you're meeting the standards for induction at the end of the year is the head, and the final decision lies with the local authority as the appropriate body.

Don't worry about inspectors. You probably won't even be observed with the short inspections, and if you are they'll only pop in to get a snapshot to see how well the school knows itself.

You don't get written feedback when you're inspected, so it can't be used as one of the statutory observations. It would seem logical to think that less experienced teachers get the lowest grades, but actually they do better than most in inspections. Almost half of all lessons taught by new teachers seen during inspections are graded highly. This is because you plan, teach and assess using the latest methods - and don't get thrown by having someone watch you teach.

Q:Many staff in my school think they shouldn't help weaker new teachers as this leads to dependency and is of no benefit in the long run. They feel far too much of their valuable time is wasted on people who are not up to the job and will never be suited to it. The culture is that it's best to learn from your own mistakes. Is there anything I can do?

A: This is outrageous. Induction was brought in to ensure that new teachers weren't left to sink or swim. Helping someone doesn't mean they'll be dependent - in fact, the opposite is true because you'll be independent more quickly. And your pupils will be learning and behaving well.

Your senior staff are also contravening their conditions of service, which say that teachers must contribute to the professional development of other staff, including the induction and assessment of new teachers.

I'm so cross I want you to raise hell, but I guess you should be more measured. Keep asking for specific help and make a note of the outcomes, then raise your lack of support formally at senior school level. Then tell your local authority induction co-ordinator what's going on.

If there's no improvement, I'd try looking for another job.

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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