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No joy at the in

I am finishing my PGCE and have been applying for jobs in the North West since January with no joy. I have applied for both temporary and full-time posts, and the feedback on my CV and letter of application was excellent.

What more I can do?

There is no bonanza of jobs this year as some thought there might be with the final stage of the workload agreement coming into force this September.

I don't know whether it is a lack of cash or the greater use of support staff, but there are more teachers chasing jobs. This is partly because there are more new teachers being trained in almost every subject at secondary level and in the primary phase. Of course, by now, only those not already in employment will be applying for September posts, so that may help the odds a bit. However, you might be wise to widen your search area and have someone else double-check your letter of application.

Trouble to declare

I have a police caution which I have been told is not a criminal conviction. Would I have difficulties in gaining employment as a teacher?

This depends upon the nature of the caution. Even if it is an old fashioned one, not one of the new caution-plus decisions being tried in parts of the country, it was still an admission of guilt to a criminal offence.

Something you did when young and foolish may well count less than something you did as an adult. Sadly, the law of supply and demand means that those with cautions who want to teach popular subjects may find it harder to convince governors of their worth. Although not all police forces have always recorded cautions centrally, you should still declare your caution on any application form. Not to do so might in itself be a further offence.

Pension prospects

I am about to start my first teaching job in September. Am I required to contribute to the pension scheme and, if so, how good is it?

I know that retirement is often the last thing on the minds of young teachers, especially with all the debts you now have. However, think of your pension as part of the overall remuneration package you receive.

The teachers' scheme is final salary, based on earnings in your last three years. Such schemes are now much rarer as employers have converted to money-purchase: what you have saved. Even the Civil Service is considering an average- salary scheme- not a final salary.

Remember that there is no investment risk whatsoever: the benefits are guaranteed by the Government, and any shortfall would be paid for by taxpayers.

Although you will contribute 6 per cent of your gross salary, your employer has to pay 13.5 per cent - and you would lose this money altogether if you opt out.

Even though you probably have other plans for the money, think very hard and take professional advice before considering opting out.

If you have a question for John Howson, please email

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