The Careers Adviser: 'Can I get a work placement at the EU? How do trainees choose which ages to teach?'

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I am a modern foreign languages student (studying French and Italian) and I would like to find some work in Brussels to get to know the institutions. What's the best way to start?

There are work attachment programmes designed specifically to give students a taste of working for the EU. They're called traineeships or "stages", and are run by all major institutions including the Parliament, the Council and the Commission (which runs the biggest scheme, with around 600 "stagiaires" selected twice a year). Note that you can only apply to the Commission once you have your degree. French, English and German are the working languages of the institutions, but you would be able to use your Italian as well.

David D'Arcy, press officer with the Commission in London and a former stagiaire himself, says that if languages are a priority you can specify the translation service as your first preference. He adds that the stage offers a great opportunity to get to know the institutions and meet people from all over Europe. Each stage lasts three to five months and schemes run in March and October.

Trainees are usually entitled to a small living allowance. The European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages) oversees the scheme: www.ec.europa.eu/stages. The Council of the European Union (www.consilium.europa.eu) offers similar five-month traineeships. To apply, you need a good grasp of English and French, and must have completed at least two years at university, or be a recent graduate.

Primary concerns

My daughter is studying English and thinking of training to be a teacher, but doesn't know what age range would suit her best. If she trains to teach at primary level, would she be able to change later on?

Age ranges for teaching are defined as early years aged three to five, lower primary (five to seven years), upper primary (seven to 11 years) and secondary (11 to 16 years). It is also possible to train to teach the middle years (seven or eight to 14 years). There are different entry requirements for the different age ranges, and these are listed on the Training and Development Agency for Schools website (www.tda.gov.uk).

Your daughter can apply for several different age ranges, but, if she does, she may find it difficult to be convincing in her personal statement about her motivation. To help her decide, she should do some work experience. Some institutions will not interview candidates without it – for primary postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) courses, many institutions ask for a minimum of two weeks' observation in a school. She can contact schools directly.

Your daughter should look on the TDA website for the Student Associates Scheme (SAS), designed to help get students into schools, and check with her university careers department to see if they organise local programmes. At the very least she should attend a three-day taster course – details on the same site. She can also look out for paid or voluntary work.

Once teachers have qualified it is legal for them to teach any age range (unless they have trained in further education), although in practice it can be difficult to move from one to another. If she wanted to change, she would need to build up a portfolio of evidence to persuade her head she was competent to teach the age range in question.

Careers adviser: Margaret Holbrough, careers consultant, Graduate Prospects

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk

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