Careers clinic

5th December 2008 at 00:00
If you have a question, turn to John Howson or Sara Bubb, our experts who offer advice every week


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 have two children, one aged three months and one aged 20 months. I moved area for my husband's work in March and left my previous job to be head of department. I successfully applied for a new job starting in January but am regretting it. My youngest daughter seems too young to leave and the thought of doing so makes me feel physically sick. I expect it's too late to get out of the job without being sued for breach of contract, but I feel miserable. I know it's a problem of my own making but is there anything I can do?

A: You should talk to the school. Leaving a young child is always difficult, but is that an excuse to avoid facing a new challenge? The school believes in you, as it has offered you the job. Why not try it for a term and promise yourself that if you still feel the same at half-term you will resign and return to being a mum.

There really isn't a right answer here, and you must decide to do what you feel is right. I am sure that although the head will be annoyed, the school will understand.

Q: I have been a primary teacher for a large number of years with a BEd (hons) education, but no subject specific degree. For various reasons I am considering giving up teaching - any ideas what else I'm good for?

A: The first thing to do is to consider your key skills. Project management, good at keeping to deadlines, splendid multi-tasker, excellent communicator and wonderful at displays are just some attributes that spring to mind.

You'll also be good at conflict resolution between people of all ages, cope with the unexpected, have no criminal record, work with people of all ages and inspire others to succeed.

No doubt others can add more qualities. Match these up against other careers and the options are legion, even in a recession. Anything requiring people skills is an obvious starting point, just put your application in stressing your skills and not just that you have been a teacher.

We take these myriad attributes for granted, but others aren't always aware of them, so they need to be informed.


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.

Q: My school says it can give me an unsatisfactory induction progress report at the end of term based solely on my alleged poor inter-personal relationships and lack of teamwork rather than my teaching, which has been OK. Is it correct?

A: The end of first term induction assessment report should make clear whether you are on track to meet the 41 core standards by the end of the induction year.

There are standards about relationships and teamwork that you have to meet so, yes, it's possible to be deemed weak in these even though your teaching seems fine. Indeed relationships with other staff and teamwork are increasingly important with the rise in numbers of support staff.

Your induction tutor should be making clear which standards are problematic. Standard 4 is about communicating effectively with colleagues, number 5 requires you to "recognise and respect the contributions that colleagues can make to the development and wellbeing of children and young people, and to raising their levels of attainment".

Perhaps you are "committed to collaboration and co-operative working" and so are meeting standard 6 but have more difficulty with standard 41: "work as a team member". And let's face it, some teams are hard to work with.

Instead of getting worried or annoyed, pat yourself on the back for your significant successes - the school is not worried about your teaching. Then see what you can do to improve your teamwork and relationships.

Ask someone to explain what you're doing wrong. You may not even be aware of what the problem is, but once you find out you can make a big effort to improve matters. Seek help and keep asking people you work with if everything is OK.

Q: I was standing in the busy corridor outside my room at the end of break when a pupil threw a ball at me. The Year 9 group I was about to teach saw this but nobody would tell me who did it. What should I do?

A: This is awful. You must speak to your induction tutor and colleagues about the incident. They'll be best placed to know how to deal with it.

Teachers have responsibilities but also rights, such as being able to work in a safe environment. I guess you're unlikely to find the culprit so focus on strategies to help with gaining respect and managing corridor chaos, etc.

Breaktime bedlam is likely to be a whole-school issue that needs attention for the safety and wellbeing of the whole staff and pupils.

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