Careers - Try this for size

23rd October 2009 at 01:00
Qualified teacher status is not linked to subject specialism. But if you opt to switch, future employers may question your motivation

When George* completed his NQT year teaching science in a London secondary school, he decided he would go abroad for a few months to gain some distance from the experience.

When he returned, he took a post as a supply teacher. Since then, his outlook has slowly begun to change and he now feels apathetic about the subject he once enjoyed.

"I know teaching is my best option for a stable job and reasonable pay," he says. "But I cannot face going back to science teaching full-time. The subject bores me to death. I find the curriculum uninspiring and I do not really have any faith that what I am teaching is of real benefit to pupils."

George is beginning to consider teaching a different subject. "I have always wanted to teach IT and I am pretty sure I could do it," he says. "I am a good teacher and I'm sure I will have no problems getting to grips with the technical knowledge."

Despite his enthusiasm, George is concerned about this rather radical change and wonders whether it requires retraining.

According to John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys and resident careers expert on the TES website, this is not the case. "Your qualified teacher status is not linked to a subject specialism," he says. "Therefore a teacher can teach almost any subject, but caution would need to be given to certain subjects where employers have a duty to ensure health and safety considerations are taken into account."

According to Gordon Laing, secondary undergraduate programme leader at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, a teacher considering a subject change would need to reflect seriously upon their own knowledge, understanding and curriculum awareness.

"Their own motivation for the second subject is vital and the passion they have in communicating with learners cannot be overestimated," he says. "Teachers considering switching to another subject would need to have, or develop, the subject pedagogy to explain concepts and ideas with confidence and creativity."

Often, however, your success in applying for a post will depend on the number of qualified teachers competing against you. "In the end, it will come down to whether there is a surplus of IT-qualified teachers chasing the available jobs and how your CV rates against those of the other candidates," says Mr Howson. "Schools do employ those with experience in other subjects but often only if they have other abilities, such as experience in a challenging school."

According to Mr Laing, boosting your CV is a good way to impress future employers. "To progress further, a portfolio of evidence would need to be compiled," he says. "This is to convince the headteacher and the head of department that you are competent to teach the second subject. Taster lessons with a Year 7 or Year 8 class supported by an element of staff shadowing are a good way to do this."

Try to befriend other heads of department at your school, says Mr Howson. "Asking colleagues to integrate you into the timetable during your non-contact time is one way to gain experience in the 'second' subject," he says. "That way, you will be able to develop your knowledge, understanding and curriculum awareness, which is fundamental to your professional development."

*Name has been changed.

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