Careers clinic

2nd January 2009 at 00:00
Our experts answer your questions

I'm a psychology graduate who has been accepted on to a PGCE course for September 2009.

I want to teach chemistry to key stage 4 and psychology at KS5. My course provider advised this would be possible without the need for a chemistry enhancement course. Indeed, my offer was on the basis that I entered as a psychologist and didn't retrain as a chemist through the enhancement course. I have done a term's voluntary work in chemistry departments, am confident in my ability, committed to study and will be attending a booster course. Do you think without an enhancement course my application as KS3KS4 chemistry teacher will be considered once I've achieved qualified teacher status?

The Qualified Teacher Status you will receive after training and the induction year is not subject specific. This means a school can employ you to teach anything to anyone.

I would have thought that a mixture of psychology and chemistry teaching would indeed be possible. It might be better to apply for a psychology post and explain about the chemistry in your application. But, you don't say what the subject of your PGCE is? If it is a science PGCE, then you could apply for chemistry posts and see what happens.

There should be plenty of time in the second and third terms of your PGCE to find a school that will offer you an interesting and rewarding timetable. JH

I am 28, on the brink of my first assistant headship and am interested to know the experiences of others who have been made assistant heads at a young age. How did other teachers react? Did you come up against any animosity? I am extremely excited about being a leader and being part of a team driving whole-school improvement but I am aware that the leap from middle leadership to senior leadership is a significant one. Any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated.

If your innate leadership style matches that of the school, you should have few problems. But, if they are radically different, it will be a more challenging experience.

There may be someone who has been passed over for promotion, but that is something you will have to face as you are promoted into other leadership positions.

Humour, hard work and help to others is a good way of becoming accepted as a professional who was rightly the best person for the job. JH

After one hell of a first term I'm facing the new one with trepidation. I didn't get all the induction support I expected last term but didn't like to make a fuss.

How can I make sure I do get what I'm entitled to?

Getting through the first term is exhausting. The good news is that this term is much easier and you can make lots of progress because things are calmer and pupils are more ready to work.

You've got to help make it happen by making the most of induction and standing up for yourself. This isn't always easy, but knowing the basic rules about induction and teachers' pay and conditions is.

Read up on this and it should give you the confidence to be assertive - and stop you making erroneous complaints.

It's your professional duty to develop into the best teacher you can be and the law and induction are there to help.

Your end of term report should have given you a really clear picture of your strengths and priorities for development but if you're not getting your reduced timetable you'll be doing all your present and future classes a favour if you make a fuss - in the most professional way of course.

For more information on induction, visit For pay and conditions visit SB

It's not feasible for me to work full-time until my children are more independent. But I'm getting nowhere looking for a part-time job.

- I haven't even had an interview. Should I work as a teaching assistant (TA) while looking?

Sorry to hear about your problems finding a job. Part-time work is hard to get. Many part-time jobs aren't even advertised because they're filled by people who have links with the school, so you need to tap into the teachers' grapevine.

The TA option is not a good idea in that you'll be surviving on lower wages and not necessarily developing the skills you need to convince a head to employ you as a teacher.

If you haven't been called to interview, I wonder if there's anything in your application form that is putting people off shortlisting you? Could you do better? The answer is always yes.

It's a good idea to do supply teaching because it opens up more contacts and keeps your skills and knowledge up-to-date. With luck, you'll be in the right place at the right time with a stunning application form. SB

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.

Sara Bubb was a primary teacher before becoming a teacher trainer. She is now an education consultant, lectures at the Institute of Education, London, and has written on induction and professional development.

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