I am a qualified (male) primary school teacher, although I have not taught for a number of years. As a self-employed training consultant, I am now in the fortunate position of having time available. I'm considering moving back into the classroom, with the vague notion of a part-time assistant role. How feasible is this? And what qualifications would I need?

I think you would be very welcome back into the classroom, on two counts. One, there's an identified need for more male primary teachers to balance things out a bit. The latest Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) figures put the number of children who have no contact at all with a male teacher at almost half. And two, government strictures aimed at freeing teachers up from preparation and planning mean that schools need extra cover. So it's a good time to think about applying as an assistant.

Be aware that the system is in a bit of turmoil as a new three-year plan for the training of support staff is in the process of being rolled out. In practice, this means that conditions will vary from school to school, with heads taking their own decisions about the level of support staff they hire in. There is now, for example, a Higher Level Teaching assistant, whose role is explained on www.tda.gov.uk/hlta.

With your qualifications, a head could decide to take you on at this level straight away, and part-time work can be perfectly acceptable in this job. You would also be eligible for a four-day induction course that would bring you up to date with any changes that might have occurred since you left.

Some heads, though, might feel you would be better off going back to part-time teaching, with a teacher's pay. You could always take a refresher course (see www.tda. gov.uk/returning) to bring you up to date. If you don't want the responsibility or longer hours, you will need to be prepared to explain that.

I took a diploma in humanistic counselling two years ago, and work two days a week counselling in a secondary school. I'm looking to supplement this with further part-time work. What sort of companies in London might be suitable?

Companies need counsellors to help with a range of human resources issues, and they also refer people for executive or management coaching. You could certainly explore opportunities. Try human resources departments. The Association of Counselling in the Workplace is worth a trawl for names and ideas (www. counsellingatwork.org.uk).

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has a counselling jobs online service at www.bacp.co.uk. There are also Employee Assistance Professional Associations (EAPs), which recommend counsellors to companies helping employees with personal or work-related matters - health, relationships and financial concerns, as well as work demands, harassment or bullying, work-life balance or stress issues. You can look up a list of EAP providers on www.eapa. org.uk. Some of the work is done over the phone.

You may find, however, that employers are asking for expertise in areas of coaching or counselling you haven't covered; in which case, you would have to shop around further or bite the bullet and go for more training. It's a growth area - half the primary care practices in England now offer some form of counselling to patients, for instance. The Graduate Prospects site www.prospects.ac.uk has a reminder of the usual range of settings where you can practise counselling (look under job descriptions). But don't be afraid to widen out your search - the Big Issue magazine in London, for example, has previously looked for counselling staff.

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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