As long as you’re happy (and your pockets are brimming with qualifications)


Since January, I’ve been looking for a job in the UK for this coming September. Although I’m not a qualified teacher (no PGCE,CELTA or QTS), I didn’t let this deter me and applied for all the jobs I thought I could do, based on my 13 years experience of teaching all ages, levels and in different establishments. I have applied for all the EAL (English as an Additional Language) jobs I’ve seen, but to no avail and all the rejections have come back with a note suggesting I get a CELTA, before trying again. This costs money and I already did this as part of my degree, although it doesn’t count as there was no teaching practice with it. This and all the other certificates I´ve picked up along the way are fluttering in the gutter.

So, I have changed game plan and spent the last few days enquiring about School Direct, where you basically qualify while you work in a school. This makes a lot of sense and I think it’s a great plan as I can’t afford to study and not work, as there are two children to support. (They would argue that Lego and kinder surprises are more important than food). So, I got on the phone to find out about the process. An hour later I got off the phone, even more disheartened than before.

“What area are you interested in?” asks the helpful man

“Either Primary or English in a Secondary School” I say.

“What did you get in English, Maths and Biology GCSE?” he asks.

“A*, C ( miraculously!) and a D”

“Right..” he says, lowering his voice

“Biology was the only one I got a D in” I offer optimistically and add ” I got muddled between my organisms and my orgasms” (It is a family defect, that we don’t know when to shut up when we’re nervous)

Silence. Cue to hang up, maybe?

“Hello?” I ask

“Oh, were you talking to me?” asks the man, hopefully giving me a way out.

“Yes!” I say.

The conversation rolls on, more dismal A-level results and Degree results are confessed.

“Right” says the man, wondering why on earth I think this is the career for me.

“I know my results aren’t the required ones, but I’ve got 13 years of experience and I get good feedback!”
I say, feeling like a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent who wants to be a gymnast, but is actually only capable of a star jump and a lopsided forward roll.

“Don’t worry” he consoles ” The recommended degree is 2:! and above but they do accept 2:2´s too, you obviously have lower than that and if you want to teach primary, you will need a C in Biology…and maybe phone some schools and get some classroom experience before you apply”

“But I’ve got years of experience” I say sounding like that “My Mum who’s a nurse” girl on Johnny Briggs.

“Anything Else?” says the man, who obviously needs to have lunch and most probably hears about 673 sob stories a day.

“No, that’s all” I say and we part ways.

I head to the fridge, grab some chocolate and weep into the wrapper. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I also didn’t envisage it being this hard. Nineteen (19!!!!)years ago, I made bad choices. I’m not competitive at all and I chose A-level subjects that I was interested in ; Russian being one of them, despite friends and family advising me otherwise. At Uni, I was better at French than German, but I dropped French so I could concentrate on German.. Well done me. I also got very distracted by toast and the telephone at school and by the excitement of being free and being able to frequent bars at uni and eat as many Otis Spunkmeyer Cookies as my student loan allowed. (N.B- My son was not named after these cookies).

So, despite my experience (have i mentioned how many years I have been teaching?), somebody fresh off a course with shiny grades has a much higher chance of getting a job than me. I respect that they have to have entrance guidelines, but today I have woken up troubled by this, not for me, but for my children.

I think that I speak for every parent on planet earth, when I say that all I want is for my child to be happy. If they colour outside the lines, I’m not going to tell them off. I can help them, but for me this is not the be all and end all. However, the last few months have proved to me, that no matter how talented you are at Lego building, eating a pack of ham in record time or speaking three languages. Grades matter. Am I supposed to stand over my sons, enrolling them in every single extra school class going, so that they come out with shiny grades and breeze into jobs? If only it were that simple, and the other side is that I have incredibly qualified friend who aren’t getting jobs, because they are overly qualified.

My worries were slightly quashed this morning, when O announced that when he’s 31, (this is the oldest age imaginable in our house) , he wants to be an alien or a spaceman, so he can eat his Weetabix on the moon. I breathed a sigh of relief, then made a note to check what qualifications you need for NASA.



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15 thoughts on “As long as you’re happy (and your pockets are brimming with qualifications)

  1. So send this to er education secretary ? For the sake of our examed stressed out little ones ( and that’s under 11) who have an imagination ( no certificate for that) and can be creative !
    Can you add to it that if you are 54 plus despite the govt URGING us to work longer it’s very hard to get noticed in the job market regardless of zillion years of experience.
    I’m with weetabix eaten on a planet. Um is there an age or qualification bar?

  2. This is great writing and also really frustrating. ie I am frustrated on your behalf. You do not need nearly as many qualifications to become a teaching assistant but the pay is rubbish. However, it can lead on to other things.

    And anyone should be glad to have you as you are totally brilliant! I

    I totally agree about the obsession with qualifications. Michael Gove springs unpleasantly to mind…

    Wish you were moving to Surrey. There is a brilliant charity called Challengers which does play schemes for children with disabilities and is just crying out for creative people like you to work for them.


  3. Interesting moan, girly Beth. As teacher myself I understand and feel your frustrations. Where are you looking for these jobs? My guess is that you’re not looking in London because I think there are loads of job opportunities for people like yourself in London.

  4. Bethan, the world is crazy. Fact. I know there are young people with quals but don’t have basic maths & English skills, yet are being allowed into schools. A teacher I was talking to recently expressed concern about the mis-spelt words on the blackboard written by a young teacher. ‘Ah, yes, but the children like him’ was the colleague’s response. You do have teaching experience, are literate (understatement!) and personable. I’m sure you’re employable but getting the foot in the door is hard. Are there other ways inside? Adult literacy/FE/ESOL? A Chinese friend got a better job than me ,in a short time, specialising in English in an FE college in London!There may be no way around the teaching qual nowadays, you do need it. CELTA is expensive but an employer may pay if you are working. I feel for you and hope you find a way to use your skills – and earn at the same time!

  5. Oh wow this astounds me that they put grades before experience! Surely that counts for something. And aren’t we crying out for teachers??

    Great rant! Thanks for linking with #effitfriday

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