Where do I start?

21st February 2003 at 00:00
Sara Bubb offers advice to students and NQTs

I have an interview for a PGCE (primary) course coming up but am concerned that my medical history may disadvantage me. I've been taking antidepressants for the past three years. Although I no longer suffer from depression, I'm still taking the medication, albeit in small doses, as the treatment I was prescribed must be withdrawn gradually. Will this stop me getting on the course?

No, it won't have any bearing on whether you're offered a place and it's unlikely to stop you becoming a teacher. You will have to declare your medical background, but only once you've been offered and accepted a place on a teaching course. There's no need to mention your depression at interview.

Everyone training to be a teacher has to complete a declaration of health form to prove they are physically and mentally fit for this demanding job.

This is an entry requirement for all courses that lead to qualified teacher status. Obviously, you must be honest: as with the declaration of any criminal background, few things look worse than being dishonest.

The form asks for your height, weight, and information about eyesight, hearing and whether you smoke. It asks about major and minor ailments, such as "have you ever had depression?", to which you have to write a yes or a no, and give details. It also asks, "are you at present taking any medicines, pills, tablets or injections?" Be precise in all answers. The doctor may ask for more information or a report from your own doctor or consultant. In a few cases, people are asked to attend a medical examination.

Your declaration of health is read and assessed by the medical adviser at your training institution. He or she has to put you into one of three categories: A - those who are in good health or who have conditions that are unlikely to interfere with efficiency in teaching; B - those in good health but who suffer from conditions that may interfere to some extent with efficiency in teaching; C - those whose condition makes them unfit to teach. Few people fit this latter category, and it's used only after thorough consultation.

Obviously, for your own good, you need to look after your health and avoid anything that you know contributes to illness. Depression may creep up on you again so it's wise to let family and friends know you want them to look out for any warning signs.

Are you a student or NQT? Email your questions to susan.young@newsint.co.uk. Sara Bubb's A Newly Qualified Teacher's Manual: how to meet the induction standards is published by David Fulton, pound;16

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