Five top tips for job hunters

While the recruitment crisis might not be good news for schools, it could be spell success for those trying to find a job. Helen Amass has five tips to help you land your next teaching role.

Helen Amass

A Teacher On A Job Hunt

The search for a new teaching post can be daunting. But as a job hunter, you now seemingly have one thing in your favour: the recruitment crisis. 

School leaders’ union the NAHT’s most recent survey into teacher recruitment found that schools struggled to fill vacancies across all roles in 2016. School leaders who took part in the survey reported that 79 per cent of posts were difficult to recruit for and respondents were unable to recruit at all for 17 per cent of posts.

With schools desperate for teachers to fill roles that are currently sitting empty, it has surely never been easier to find a new job in teaching?

“It’s all relative,” says John Howson, a teacher supply-expert and honorary fellow of the University of Oxford. “If you are a physicist or a good-quality maths teacher, you will have no problem finding a job. If you have trained in a subject such as history, art or PE, then it’s likely that things will be a little harder...but all evidence suggests that the dominant factor is location.” 


Look for jobs in London

The TES Teacher Recruitment Index, which tracks secondary schools’ ability to successfully recruit teachers, provides some context for how location can impact on your chances of finding a job. 

Although schools in all regions report having to work incredibly hard to attract talent, recruitment is more difficult in London and the East of England. Meanwhile schools in the North West and East Midlands find it easier to fill posts.

One reason for this, the NAHT suggests, is the high cost of living in these areas. Of the respondents based in London, 60 per cent said that their recruitment difficulties could be attributed to high housing and living costs.

“Like many other people, teachers are being priced out of the housing market across the UK, with property prices soaring way beyond salaries – an increasingly serious barrier to recruitment,” says Russell Hobby, the union’s general secretary.

Another contributing factor to the recruitment problems in London and the South East, adds Howson, is that the state sector is competing with a larger independent sector in these areas, which means that there are fewer teachers to go around. 

In the North West, on the other hand, where living costs are lower, far too many teachers are being trained, according to Howson. And because teachers tend to look for work in the area that they trained in, this drives up competition for jobs.

Be flexible about what you teach

For secondary teachers, the subject you teach certainly has an impact on your employment chances. The TES index shows that your chances of getting a job are better if you teach design and technology, maths or sciences, while competition is greater in subjects such as art and design, history and PE. 

According to Howson, this variation is largely down to supply and demand. Not enough people with maths and science backgrounds are choosing to enter initial teacher training. On the other hand, initial teacher training courses for subjects such as history are more likely to be oversubscribed.

“If you are a history teacher, be open to looking for humanities jobs instead of looking exclusively for posts where you will only teach history,” Howson says. And, he adds, if you are able to teach a second subject, make sure that you mention this in your application forms. 

“If you are a PE teacher with a degree in sports science, you may be able to pick up a bit of biology, which will make you more attractive to schools.” 

Watch out for trends

Changes to the national curriculum can also drive demand, Howson points out. For example, he says, when the computing curriculum changed in 2014 to place greater emphasis on coding, schools had lots of vacancies for people with coding expertise.

This suggests that job seekers would be wise to keep a close eye on the changing requirements for their subject to make sure they emphasise the most desirable aspects of their experience when applying for jobs.

Subject and location will be at the top of the list of requirements for anyone searching through job ads, but teachers must also decide what kind of school they want to work in.

Take on a challenge

Unsurprisingly, the NAHT survey indicates that candidates may stand a better chance of securing a job if they are applying to work in a school that requires improvement. The report revealed that schools judged with the lowest Ofsted ratings faced “a consistently greater struggle to recruit”. 

However, the writers of the report are keen to stress that the findings in this area should be “considered with caution”, as this is the first year that the survey has taken Ofsted ratings into account, and also because the numbers were small for some of the roles surveyed. 

Sarah Wright, lecturer in primary education at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, similarly warns against making sweeping statements about whether it is easier to get a job in a struggling school. She explains that, really, it is all about personal preference.

“As an NQT, I knew I wanted to work in a ‘requires improvement’ school, so those were the roles I looked for,” she says. “Of course, we have trainees who only want to work in ‘outstanding’ schools, but they are not necessarily the majority.”

Start hunting early

Despite the current recruitment crisis, securing your next job in teaching is bound to take a bit of leg work. But the way to give yourself the best chance possible may simply be to get your application in early. This is because most teaching jobs start in September, to coincide with the beginning of the academic year, so schools begin advertising as early as possible, often in January. 

Schools will then recruit very quickly and posts will begin to be filled, meaning that the closer to summer it gets, the fewer schools will be advertising for the coming September. 

“The later you leave it, the more difficulty you will have,” says Howson. “So, start your hunt early, straight after Christmas, if you can.”

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