Careers clinic

27th June 2008 at 01:00
If you're new to the classroom or have a problem, you know who to call - our experts. John Howson and Sara Bubb have some useful advice
If you're new to the classroom or have a problem, you know who to call - our experts. John Howson and Sara Bubb have some useful advice

Q: I want to become a history teacher but I'm worried about my chances because I have a conviction for drink-driving in 1994 and in 2005 I was cautioned by police for the possession of cannabis. Will this have a detrimental effect on applications for teaching jobs?

A: It is up to individual schools to decide on seeing your record. As a possible history teacher, a subject where there is some over-supply, your chances may be limited.

The caution for cannabis by itself might be enough for most schools not to consider you, but drink-driving would rule you out for insurance purposes and brings other considerations, such as the need for a visa if accompanying a school trip to the US, which might be too much for most schools.

Unless you have any other skills or attributes to offer, such as the ability to teach travel and tourism options in a new diploma, I would look elsewhere than teaching.

The risk of studying and then not finding a teaching post may not be worth it. Sorry to be negative, but it is best to be realistic. Q I'm a new teacher and starting to think about career development. Ultimately, I think I would like to become a deputy head and possibly a headteacher. I have a background in human resources and I'd be keen to explore a mentoring-type role. We have a new head starting and I want to know how to impress her.

A: I assume that you have entered teaching after a period in another career so you have lots of other experience. However, as a former HR person, you will understand the importance of the context of the school where you are working.

Many teachers change schools for promotion and career development to widen their experience. But, there is a case to be made for staying put, if opportunities arise.

As you are still refining your classroom expertise, there are pluses and minuses about mentoring trainees that you would need to consider in the context of your school. Clearly, a new headteacher is an extra factor in the equation.

I am sure a professional attitude and a willingness to take on responsibility will be a key factor alongside the inevitable inter-personal relationships that exist.

Any new head is likely to conduct a thorough staff review and your professionalism and keenness to progress should be noted. If you then feel you aren't getting anywhere, look elsewhere. Unlike in many large organisations, as a teacher, your career is in your own hands


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 a newly qualified teacher on a temporary contract. When I started I was full of enthusiasm, now I dread going to school. Over the past few months I've been told off and made to feel like a naughty kid, and my school recently advertised my job. I applied but felt foolish and demoralised. Was this a good move or not?

A: You poor thing. From what you say the school sounds like a ghastly place to work. You should look on the end of your temporary contract with relief rather than regret, unless there are positives that you have not mentioned.

It's always useful to make a list of pros and cons about difficult situations, to help you notice the good aspects of your job. There must have been something that made you put in an application for the post - but from what you say it sounds like a suicide course.

Most schools look after their teachers a whole lot better than you have been treated. Your school sounds like a toxic organisation. That will obviously have an effect on the children too. Look how your confidence has been eroded.

Try other schools by doing supply teaching or even voluntary work until the end of term. Starting your induction year will give you guaranteed support and monitoring, which will help you develop and build your confidence.

Contact the Teacher Support Network ( for free online or telephone counselling and coaching. You might also want to get checked out by your GP. Soon your teaching mojo will be back.

Q: I have a job in Lambeth in London as a new teacher. What will my pay be?

A: Congratulations. You will be paid on M1 of the main scale, which is pound;25,000 a year. If you have relevant experience you can ask for this to be taken into consideration when deciding where you start on the scale as there is some flexibility to start on M2 (pound;26,581 in inner London) or higher.

Once awarded, experience points can't be taken away regardless of whether you stay in the same school or get a post in another. Teachers on the main pay scale move up a point every year, in September. It's pretty automatic - you don't have to apply for it. That's why it's essential to negotiate a fair starting point


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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