Careers clinic

21st November 2008 at 00:00
If you have a question, turn to experts John Howson or Sara Bubb, who offer advice in the TES magazine every week

Q: At 16 I was involved in a stupid, petty fight with several other girls that escalated when a girl I was with tried to take another girl's coat. We were all arrested and charged with assault with intent to rob.

This happened in 1997 and aside from points on my driving licence for doing 45mph on a 40mph road this has been my only moment of stupidity. I am hoping it doesn't prevent me from becoming a teacher.

I am in my first year of an undergraduate degree as a mature student and hope to go on to do a PGCE afterwards in psychology then teach in secondary schools. I am due to graduate with my degree in 2011 and PGCE in 2012, by which time I'll be 32 and it will have been 16 years since the incident.

I have been managing pubs for the past few years and obtained a personal licence, which involved a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, although not an enhanced one. Will my criminal record as a teenager prevent me from becoming a teacher in my thirties?

A: Your criminal record will remain a millstone around your neck for the whole of your teaching career. You will need to disclose it for every job. But, as it was 16 years ago, and you were young and foolish, and have nothing but a traffic criminal record since then, I don't see why it should prevent you from entering the teaching profession.

You don't say what punishment you received but, assuming it was a discharge or a fine, then I would expect teacher trainers and schools to be able to put your record into context. Many of us regret our behaviour as teenagers.

Q: My school is overstaffed and it has been made clear that some staff need to go. The choice is voluntary severence or, later on, compulsory redundancy. I know that I will be one of the staff to go one way or another, but I don't know which route would be best. I am so upset. I don't know how either route affects me financially or employability wise. Any advice or information would be much appreciated.

A: If you are going to be made redundant either way, take the voluntary severance and start looking for another job. Unless there is a big difference in the packages between the two arrangements, I cannot see why it is worth waiting


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 really worried. I accidentally swore at some boys who were winding me up and now feel terrible. What shall I do? Will I get sacked?

A: Don't worry, I doubt if you'll get the sack. Mind you, you didn't tell me exactly what you said or in what context or what sort of school you work in.

The safest thing to do is apologise straight away to anyone who heard, saying that you realise how inappropriate it is. Then, let the headteacher or someone senior know so that they'll take the wind out of the sails of anyone who tells tales or complains.

Don't assume that nobody noticed - pupils have acute antennae for such lapses and it'll be round the playground in no time.

Swearing at or even in earshot of pupils is a no-no for teachers. Not only is it contravening the assumption that you are a pillar of society, but also the core standards that all teachers have to meet and which you have to demonstrate in order to pass induction.

Standard 2 requires new teachers to "adopt high standards of behaviour in their professional role". Because we're always reminding pupils to speak politely and treat people with respect, we need to make sure we behave impeccably.

Maybe you should develop a range of alternative expletives, such as sugar, darn or flip.

Q: If you go on a course during the week, does this come out of your NQT non-contact time or is it in addition to it?

A: The extra non-contact time that you get when you are on induction is meant for professional development activities. These might include reading, observing, discussing issues with appropriate staff, meeting your induction tutor - and courses. So, yes, if you go on a course it would come out of your induction time.

The only exception might be where the local authority says that you have to attend a course because you are say a Year 6 teacher preparing for Sats.

You could argue that such a course is not professional development but something that others require you to do. But it's a grey area as everything that helps you be a better teacher is professional development.

Because most courses are a full day it might mean some Boxing and Coxing as your induction time works out to half a day a week in primary or extra free periods in secondary that you'll have regular cover for.

Whatever you do, make sure that the course has an impact so the disruption to your pupils' learning has been worth 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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