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Where do I start?

Sara Bubb offers advice to students and NQTs

I'm coming to the end of my PGCE and am starting my first job in September, as a teacher of English and media studies. I've just seen my timetable, and more than half of it is media studies. I don't mind, but it has occurred to me that I might not be regarded as teaching a shortage subject as I am not teaching solely English. Does this matter?

It will matter. To get your student loans repaid you need to be teaching the shortage subject for at least half of your teaching time in a normal week. You should mention this to the school and ask if you can swap a media studies class for an English or drama one so the balance makes you eligible. If you don't, you'll have to pay back your student loans. People will understand if you explain the position - the scheme is new so you will have to do so clearly. You need to speak to the headteacher immediately - timetable changes have knock-on effects and you don't want to get your career off to a bad start by looking difficult.

You'll be eligible for your pound;4,000 golden hello if you're teaching English in the term after you finish induction. There are no rules about how much of the week you have to be teaching it.

I've just completed a PGCE in ICT and have a job lined up for next term. I had planned to work as a supply teacher during June and July, but my university tutor mentioned that it may affect my student loan repayments.

Neither the Student Loan Company nor the Teacher Training Agency seems to be able to provide any advice.

There's no problem with doing supply in the couple of weeks before the end of term. You can't apply for the loan repayment scheme while doing short-term supply, but you can when you start your job in September. Your tutor may have been confused with last year's arrangements because the regulations state that you can apply only if you started work in an eligible post after July 1, 2002, so this stopped some people from starting contracts in June last year.

As for not getting an answer from the SLC and TTA, well what can I say? They should have referred you to the Teaching Information Line on 0845 6000 991. You'll also be able to claim the pound;4,000 golden hello in the term after finishing induction - September 2004 if all goes well. You are lucky, so enjoy these perks.

Are you a student or NQT? Email your questions to Sara Bubb's The Inside Guide for New Teachers is published this month by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99)

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