27th October 2000 at 01:00
Q My head has asked a classroom assistant to take my class for a session in order to give me some non-contact time. Is this legal?

A Pupils in maintained schools must normally be taught be qualified teachers. If this were to be a regular arrangement, it would be difficult to justify to the governing body. It may be that there is a teacher in nominal charge of the class whilst teaching another class, but even that is probably unacceptable on a regular basis.

This is something you might discuss with your professional association.

Q I'm considering starting a PGCE next year. I intend to fast track, with a view to becoming a school inspector. How many years should this take? Do I need to go through senior management and headship first?

A It is useful to set out with a career strategy in mind, although remaining flexible is also important.

Fast track teachers will be expected to teach in the classroom for a number of years.

I am not sure whether you are thinking of working full-time for OFSTED or working for a private contractor conducting school inspections. There are a few opportunities for full-time OFSTEDinspectors but competition is severe. As to whether you need to become a senior manager first, it is difficult to advise or to predict time scales. It may be that, for such a post, proven expertise in a subject or in special needs may be just as valuable as having been a head.

A recent OFSTED advertisement for appointment as an inspector asked for experience as a head of department or as a leading practitioner.

Q I want to do a drama course to help with teaching my year fives, but the school won't pay. I will do the course in the evenings, in my own time. Isn't the school supposed to encourage my professional development?

A I would agree that professional development is generally a good idea. However, there is rarely enough money to satisfy all teachers' wishes.

Does your school have a policy approved by the governors that covers staff development? If so, how does your course fit in with their policy objectives? If you can't have access to funds this year, ask what might their views be for future years.

Send in your questions to our Qamp;A experts. Contact Susan Young at

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