14th March 2008 at 00:00
Q: I work in a private special school for severely autistic children. I have a PGCE but it is in FE. I would like to gain qualified teacher status (QTS) and was hoping you could advise me on a course where I can convert from FE to secondary. I do not have the luxury of going back to college full-time as I have two children to support.

A: This is a tricky one. Have you tried asking the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) advice line for suggestions?

It seems that there are three possibilities, given that your PGCE doesn't allow you to work in schools. You could continue in the private sector, but the salary, benefits and chances for promotion may be less than in the maintained sector.

You could apply to the Open University distance learning PGCE or see if one is available with another local higher education establishment. You could do much of the course where you are, but you must do your teaching practice in a mainstream secondary school.

Or you could apply for a post in a mainstream school working with special needs and either undertake the OU course or the school to secure you a place on the Graduate Training Programme. Although the school would pay you as an unqualified teacher, special needs points and a possible recruitment package might mean little loss in salary.

It is worth looking into local secondary schools with a unit for children on the autistic spectrum to see what advice they might be able to offer.

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask him a question, email him at

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