So, you want to swap sectors

13th February 2004 at 00:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

Once you have qualified teacher status you can teach in any sort of school - in theory. Every year people trained to teach secondary decide that they would really like to work in primary. Or vice versa. Or they fancy special schools. Although such moves are possible, it makes sense to develop your experience in the sort of school that you've trained in.

Swapping isn't easy, and best done only when you have more experience. It is a big leap, purely in terms of the amount of subject knowledge you'll need, to say nothing of the different ways of working. It will be harder to swap phases because you'll be competing with people who have greater knowledge and experience than you. There are a few conversion courses, but experienced teachers are more likely to get places than new teachers who might be deemed to be running away from something. For instance, people who have problems controlling secondary pupils won't find primary easy.

It's risky to make such a move in your induction year as you'll have to meet all the QTS and induction standards, the same as someone who's trained in that age phase. (If you fail after three terms, you'll be de-registered from the General Teaching Council and never allowed to teach in the maintained sector again.) Just because you're doing your induction in a school of a different type from which you were trained would not be grounds for appeal - you chose that path.

You can do induction in a special school - but you have your whole career in which to specialise. There are plenty of children with special needs in mainstream schools and the experience of teaching the full ability range will be invaluable whatever you decide to do.

Teaching in a special school requires a great deal. Most people have first developed skills in mainstream, which is why there is no initial teaching qualification. It' s easier to go from mainstream to special school than the other way around, so think carefully about going straight into special education. Spend a few years in mainstream - you'll be classed as experienced then, and be a better proposition for employers.

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99) See

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