Sector shuffle

9th January 2004 at 00:00
If you've just trained in FE and are struggling to find your first job, you still have the school option. Luis Domingues took the secondary route and never looked back

Calling all unemployed or disaffected new teachers who trained in FE. If your new job (or lack of one) is getting you down already, there is a solution. Get yourself a suit and apply for a job in a secondary school.

"School," you cry? "Are you mad? Those crumbling, archaic institutions where they teach the national curriculum?"

Yes, school. It's where I moved, and I am not alone. And yes, I do have all my marbles.

In the past few years, many teachers, like me, have trained to teach in the post-compulsory sector but then taken their first job in a secondary school. The latest figures show that there are about 14,500 teachers in schools who are "unqualified". This includes FE-trained teachers, instructors trained overseas and teachers on employment-based routes leading to qualified teacher status.

Colleagues are often puzzled. Their reservations are understandable.

Someone trained in FE but taking a first post in secondary is labelled "unqualified", and is therefore paid less.

Not only that, but we have to undergo more training through the graduate teacher programme to gain the qualified status that allows us to move on to the main pay scale. Given the huge workload at the start of teaching, the idea of more training can put people off. And then there are the behaviour management issues in schools, some of which are not relevant in FE colleges. So why do it?

Though it is not for the faint-hearted, secondary schools offer great rewards. If you bite the bullet now, you'll have to work hard for a year but it should pay off after that. You can earn more in schools, and there are more chances to take on managerial responsibilities.

And then there are the students. I am lucky enough to work in a specialist performing arts school, so my students are hugely energetic. But colleagues in similar situations say they are more enthused about teaching pre-16 students than post-16 ones. Much of this enthusiasm stems from pupils themselves.

And let's not forget the future of the two sectors. Government plans for a new 14-19 curriculum are moving on apace. Anyone with experience of both will be at an advantage when any re-structuring is implemented.

But it's not all deferred gratification: FE-trained new teachers often find that the more structured environment of the secondary school suits them better, and that the support they get from parents boosts learning.

So what's in it for schools? For one, these newcomers often bring direct experience of the industrial and commercial worlds. This can be beneficial to younger age groups, helping them shape future career choices and focus minds on the challenges ahead. Many of the units studied in FE training are applicable in a pre-16 environment, and there is increasing flexibility in training programmes to facilitate this movement across the job market.

Indeed, plans are afoot to create a qualification that bridges the sectors.

"The important thing is to ensure that young people get the teaching they want," said a spokesperson for the department for Education and Skills. "FE teachers have a lot to offer schools and we are working to develop new courses which confer with both a school and an FE teaching qualification."

Pilot schemes are underway at Canterbury Christchurch College in Kent, among others, to explore these possibilities. The Teacher Training Agency supports this movement across the sectors. Teaching staff can also be taken on in the independent sector, regardless of qualified teacher status, so that may be worth investigating.

You may have to put up with lower pay, extra training, and challenging behaviour in secondary schools, but it may be a welcome option if your FE options look thin just now.

Luis Domingues teaches English at the BRITschool for performing arts and technology, Selhurst, south-east London. For details of the GTP, visit, or call the Teaching Information Line. Tel: 08456 000 991

Look before you jump

Dol Negotiate - you may be able to complete the graduate teacher programme in less than a year so that you get your qualified teacher status quicker and thus progress to the main pay scale.l Emphasise the generic nature of your training - most of it covers teaching in secondary schools, but you should brush up on key stage 4 and health and safety issues prior to interviews.l Make a virtue of your experience of industry and commerce. It is still relevant for schools.


* Say that you're not willing to undergo extra training - you won't get the job.

* Worry that you won't be able to handle school pupils - behaviour management is behaviour management, after all.

* Suggest that your training might be irrelevant - it is, with a few adjustments. So talk it up a bit.

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