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No more maths

Is it true that there is a shortage of maths teachers? There seem to have been very few adverts for such posts since September.

It depends on what you mean by a shortage. Figures from a government staffing survey published in September last year show that some pupils are taught by school staff with less advanced qualifications in maths than others. Does this make them less good teachers? Possibly their knowledge and understanding of mathematics and the pedagogy associated with teaching the subject may be more limited, but this might be mitigated by their years of accumulated teaching experience. In general, there is a perception that more and better qualified maths teachers are required in many of the UK's secondary schools.

The fact that there have not been many posts advertised since September is not necessarily an indication of a shortage. Few posts are advertised in the autumn term because schools must operate a timetable and cannot afford to leave groups untaught.

Head for the top

I am thinking about making an application for my first headship, but do I need to have completed the National Professional Qualification for Headship before I do so?

The National College for School Leadership says that from April 1, 2004, it will be mandatory for all first-time headteachers in the maintained sector in England to hold the NPQH, or to have secured a place on the programme, although the situation in Wales is different.

The qualification follows a programme that focuses on an individual's training and development needs. The time needed depends on a person's existing qualifications, experience, skills and expertise. Anyone close to being ready for headship may be able to progress to the final stages in as little as four months. However, according to the college, the expectation is that candidates will take a maximum of two years to complete the qualification and will then be ready to apply for jobs as a headteacher.

In May last year, the college reported that nearly 7,000 people were taking the NPQH and more than 8,000 have graduated with the qualification since its introduction in 1997, although figures for completion and success rates seem to be unavailable. It is now possible to accredit the qualification towards a higher degree at some universities. Interestingly, every year about 10 per cent of schools advertise for a new headteacher.

Teach what you know

I trained as a primary school teacher but so far I have only been able to find supply work, much of it in secondary schools. In this case, can I apply for a job in a secondary school?

The simple answer is that qualified teacher status is exactly what it says it is - a certification to teach issued by the Government. The certificate does not limit you to a sector or subject although implicitly there is a presumption that teachers will work in the sector and subject area in which they were trained. However, if there are no suitable posts in your age phase, you are free to apply for posts in areas in which there may be shortages. Bear in mind, though, that without appropriate knowledge and training you might find the job a less than fulfilling experience.

If you have a question for John Howson, please email

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