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Why can't I afford to work?

I am a mature NQT still seeking my first post. I graduated in July 1999 eager to begin my career after working hard for six years (A-levels for two years and teacher training for four years).

For several reasons I was unable to begin supply teaching until September 2000. With a 12-year-old daughter, I was excited that finally I could begin to be self-sufficient and less dependent on state benefits. So why am I now considering giving it all up?

As a supply teacher I am not on a contract, and hours are erratic so I cannot claim working families tax credit. The social security office and lone parent adviser informed me that I would remain on income support but could earn pound;15 on top of my benefit. So why doesn't this keep me happy?

In a bid to be flexible, I am prepared to drive up to 20 miles or so to work. Travelling this distance several times a week quickly consumes the pound;15 I am entitled to "earn" - and more. So I am worse off by working, and we now live below the breadline. Wher is any incentive here for me, and others like me, to continue working?

Why do I keep teaching? Because after all this time I still love it. There must be others like me in this situation and I would be interested to hear their views and how they cope.

I have recently written to the head of department in my nearest DSS office, and my local MP in the hope of some flexibility regarding a petrol allowance. After all, the Government is keen to get single parents back into work, so why shouldn't it want to assist me in the process?

I am only a term into the four terms "allocated" to NQTs doing supply work and try to remain optimistic that I will find a post and begin my induction. If Ireach next Christmas and still have no appointment, I, like others, will risk being unable to enter the profession. What concerns me is that if all these NQTs doing supply are lost, surely the Government is heading for a teaching crisis of a supply kind?

Emma Farey, Warminster, Wiltshire

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