16th May 2003 at 01:00
Your career and pay questions answered by John Howson

Q Recent headlines about teachers being made redundant scare me. I'm coming to the end of my undergraduate degree, training to be an early years teacher. As you might expect after four years of study, I've built up quite an overdraft. Will I get a teaching post for this September?

A Primary schools have been reporting as many vacancies as secondary schools. But the number of primary school teachers qualifying this summer is likely to be higher than in recent years. This is partly because of a switch from undergraduate courses to the one-year PGCE, but is also because the Government has increased the number of trainees. With almost all three and four-year-olds who want a place now in school, and the numbers in these age groups falling in some parts of the UK, early years teachers may find competition for posts more intensive.

But there will still be plenty of teaching jobs available in some parts of Britain. Although house prices remain prohibitively high in London, newly qualified teachers are more often interested in the rental market. Many London authorities are aware of this and have put schemes in place to help new teachers find somewhere to rent, sometimes on a shared basis with other teachers. Teaching in London for a couple of years can be a wonderful start to your career.

Q We are a group of teachers working in an international school. Our concern is the police checking procedure. We are not opposed to the system, and we recognise the need for it as a means of ensuring child safety. But the local police don't always seem to play by the same rules as in England.

We are worried that unless we agree to pay "backhanders", the UK authorities making any enquiries might be told that we have committed fictitious crimes. Do you have any advice?

A This is tricky. Anticipatory action may allow rules to be developed that would possibly protect you. It might also make the situation worse. The only safe way out would be to apply for teaching posts after returning to the UK. Then the local authorities would have no hold over you. But you might risk a period of supply work, or even unemployment.

As a group, try raising your concerns with bodies such as the European Council for International Schools, and your local embassy or high commission. I am always surprised that criminal records, even in the UK, aren't administered by prosecuting bodies rather than law enforcement authorities for these very reasons. It would be a shame if you were put off teaching overseas because of these perceived threats.

John Howson is visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and managing director of Education Data Surveys. Send your career questions to him at

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