Schoolzone: Teaching outside your specialism

Teaching outside your specialism

By Sean Russell

Teaching outside your specialism might increase your workload but it also may improve your career prospects.

I am a trained teacher of design and technology specialising in resistant materials. For the last two years I have been timetabled to teach an ever-increasing amount of food technology at KS3 and KS4, graphic products and some art lessons.

This is increasing my load considerably as I prepare resources outside my specialism. Can a school legally insist I teach these subject areas? What are the long-term implications for my career development?

Sean Russell, our careers adviser, answers:
You are not alone. Many teachers of design and technology have had requests or demands that they teach outside of the areas for which they are trained. Schools can legally ask teachers to teach other subjects, but such requests need to be reasonable and it may well be worth getting your union's advice on this in order to give you confidence when discussing this with your head of department.

I am assuming you have discussed this, but if you haven't make sure you do as soon as possible. Set up a formal meeting, don't chat about it at lunchtime or at break. Be very clear what the issues are.

Are you reluctant to teach outside your subject area at all? Are you willing to do some, but need to be clear about support? Could support mean reducing your involvement in lunchtime detention supervision, after-school clubs, and responsibility for the department library?

Perhaps it could mean a systematic level of training by attending courses or visiting local schools to share good practice. Make this issue a central feature of your appraisal. If your head of department is unhelpful or is being pressurised by senior management, then discuss it with the relevant senior member of staff. If this sounds daunting, then rehearse your discussions with a friendly colleague at the school.

Other possible tactics are to discuss it with your teacher governors, especially if they are on staffing of curriculum sub-committees. One issue that really gets parents reaching for their phones is teachers teaching subjects for which they are unqualified.

As for the long-term implications for your career, it really depends on what your plans are. If you were looking to move to head of a design and technology department, a range of teaching would certainly look good.

If you are planning to change job, your CV could look very appealing to a school that has a range of subjects to cover and is looking for the greatest flexibility from their staff. In this case, as in your present situation, it would be important to be clear once they offered you the job what you were prepared to do.


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