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Where do I start?

Sara Bubb offers advice to students and NQTs

I'm an NQT working in a private primary school. Throughout my four years' study I accumulated a debt of pound;12,000 with the Student Loan Company.

Although I specialised in PE in my primary BA QTS course, I teach science across all of key stage 2 and some at key stage 1. I'm the only science teacher in the school, as it works on a subject teacher basis. I also teach games and PE, some maths, and art and I am a form teacher. Am I eligible for the repayment of my student loan?

No. The scheme is only for people in the state sector. If you were teaching such a timetable in a maintained school you might be able to get on the repayment of teachers' loans (RTL) scheme because you're teaching a shortage subject (science) to classes other than your own for half the week, though not specialising in science during your training will go against you.

The bigger problem is that few primary schools organise subject teaching as your school does. Nor is it worth moving to the state sector just to get the RTL, as you have to start teaching in an eligible position within seven months of being awarded qualified teacher status. You probably got QTS in July 2002 (check on your certificate), which means that the seven months have elapsed. To check, call the Teaching Information Line on 0845 6000 991.

I qualified last year and have been doing supply. A school has offered me a term's contract to cover maternity leave: this would count towards my NQT year but I have not completed the skills tests and so don't yet have QTS.

Does this mean I can't do induction?

Yes, you're an unqualified teacher until you pass the three skills tests.

You can only start your induction period when you have QTS and are on at least a term's contract. Make sure this school knows your position - that you expect to be paid on the unqualified teacher scale, teach a full timetable, and not be given an induction tutor to support and monitor you - so they can't accuse you of misleading them. Nor will your school be able to get the pound;1,000 a term from the LEA for your induction. The consequences of not passing the skills tests severely disadvantage you, the pupils and the school. You need to pass them. Induction can start from the date you're awarded QTS.

Are you a student or NQT? Email your questions to 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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