Dear Ted

14th November 2003 at 00:00
I've being trying since May to find a job as a primary teacher. I've sent letters to more than 60 schools, joined supply agencies and even featured in the local paper. I feel I've been duped by the Government

Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own

Ted says

Although in some countries teachers are found jobs by their government, in Britain they are not regarded as civil servants so they have to fend for themselves. As a result, their fortunes depend on what they teach and where they live.

A history teacher in a popular area may be stuck in a long queue, while a maths teacher in places with a major shortage will be collected by chauffeur-driven limousine. In general, teachers who are mobile find getting a job easier than those who are restricted to one small area.

Try making personal contact with schools to see if there is a vacancy coming up, and discuss any advertised post with a senior member of staff. A particularly desperate move is to offer to work free so the school will have seen you at first hand if an opening should occur. This happens in highly competitive fields such as broadcasting, but is risky, and properly qualified people should not have to suffer such indignity as appearing to crawl. Think of parallel work with young people, such as youth work, as an interim measure.

Make sure your application is not flawed. Show an example of it to an experienced head or teacher for constructive comment. There may be something an experienced eye would pick up.

Do not give up. You are clearly determined and your persistence will pay off one day.

You say

Do some research

There is a sense in which the Government (or, I guess, the Teacher Training Agency) has "duped" people who applied for a teaching qualification under the impression that there were jobs going begging. After all, why would they spend all that money on the promotional campaign if there was not a problem filling vacancies? Perhaps there were jobs at the time. And, more importantly, perhaps there are now - somewhere. What can be done?

More mobility helps, but there are practical limitations - costs of moving or time or cost of commuting further afield. Check out the independent schools within travelling distance. And remember that supply work is a traditional "in" to a full-time permanent job.

R Lloyd, Gwent, Wales

Reassess strategies

The real issue is: where do you go from here? There is a danger of demoralisation setting in. So, you can sit at home sticking pins in effigies of ministers, or do something.

Have you been getting interviews? If, no, go back to square one and look at your job search strategy and CV. It may be worth revisiting the latter anyway - a couple of hours invested in tidying up a CV is time well spent.

If you have been getting interviews, look at your technique. If you've had more than five (the average size of a short-list), you are defying the law of averages in your interview performance.

The negative vibes you are experiencing may be self-fulfilling - you may (rightly) be angry and resentful with the Government, but do not project this in your public face.

I Hayward, Preston

Consider other options

I qualified as a primary teacher in 2002 and have managed to get just one two-term contract, which ended in the summer. The most recent post I applied for had 64 applicants. LEAs should work more closely with teacher training providers to ensure that course places reflect local demand. The TTA should obtain an accurate overview of regional variations in demand, using data such as demographic trends and funding formulae. This would put a stop to irresponsible blanket advertising of teaching as a profession "crying out" for people to join.

There are other options: learning mentors, for example, can make a difference to children's achievements and pay is on a par with an NQT salary. If you can't relocate, consider broadening your horizons.

Glenda Lynch, Wirral, Merseyside

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