The first hurdle to overcome in any teaching job search is making the shortlist for interview – and that starts with your written application.
Often, when you are applying for several jobs, it can be all too tempting to copy and paste answers, or to change the name at the top of a standard cover letter. Surely, what works for one school can work for the next, right?
Not necessarily, recruitment experts say. Using a standard application that you’ve fired off to dozens of other schools will get you nowhere says Lynette Beckett, director of HR and strategy at Bright Futures Educational Trust. The recruiter will want to see that you understand their school and what they expect from their staff.
"You can have a generic application that you want to use, but really bespoke it for the job you’re applying for; otherwise you’re not selling yourself," Beckett explains.
"I’ve seen it all too often over the years. People have generic wording that they use in an application. I shortlist headteacher applications and quite often you will see things and think ‘this isn’t bespoke to what we’re looking for’."
There are other points to bear in mind, too.
While all schools and local authorities will be different in what they require from job applicants, it is likely you will be asked to fill out an application form with accompanying supporting statement and a short cover letter. If you are asked for a CV, you will need to send one, but schools will not usually ask for this.
The application form
Application forms can be comprised of standard questions that encourage standard answers, so it is important to make your responses stand out, Beckett advises.
“Very often, an application form can give you narratives that say, ‘I’ve done this and I’ve done that.’ But what we’d be interested to see is what’s been achieved as a result and what impact it has had on those children and young people,” Beckett explains.
As well as demonstrating the impact of your experience, Beckett also suggests that you watch the length of your answers, as you can always elaborate in your supporting statement. To make the most of the short length, she recommends that you “really pull out the salient points and give examples to bring it to life".
For more of Beckett’s tips, read her piece on how to stand out in your application form.
When sending an application form and supporting statement, you should include an accompanying short cover letter. This only needs to be one paragraph and should name the job you are applying for and list everything you are sending as part of your application.
The supporting statement is your chance to really illustrate your talents and to highlight what makes you the best person for the role.
Although your supporting statement should always be individual to you, there are some common rules you should follow when writing it. These include:
- Make the statement specific to the school.
- Don't write more than two pages.
- Make sure it is well-structured with clear and concise points (see below).
- Use examples to support your points.
- Use the job specification as a guide and work through the qualities that the school are looking for.
- Most importantly, tell them why they should hire you.
Structuring your supporting statement
Your supporting statement should start with an introductory paragraph setting out the role you wish to apply for and why you are applying for it. You can then divide the rest of your statement into three or four sections, depending on whether the post you are applying for is a class teacher or a leadership post. These sections should cover the following topics: your experience, achievements that are relevant to the post, what you see as the priorities of the job you are applying for and, for leadership candidates, priorities for the future of the school.
Tes forum contributor Theo Griff has written a sample introduction for a supporting statement: “I wish to be considered for this position and enclose… I am attracted to this post as a development of my role as… in which I have direct responsibility for… I have been concerned especially with… I now feel ready to extend this experience of… and… into another school. School XXX is of particular interest to me because of its… (Don’t say because you live nearby).”
She adds that when writing about your experience you should include information on curriculum roles, pastoral roles, managerial roles, extra-curricular activities, contact with parents or other schools and experience of budgeting.
Achievements relevant to the post could include your contributions in previous jobs, skills attained outside of school (but relevant to teaching or managing children), and any specific training you have undertaken.
When it comes to discussing the priorities of the post, do your research ahead of time so that you can make it really specific to the school. This is particularly true for leaders. You want to demonstrate that you fully understand the school, the direction it is moving in, and have a clear vision for the part you can play in its development.
Classroom teachers may also want to add in something about their teaching philosophy, says Griff.
“You might, when applying for a teaching rather than a leadership role, wish to have sections about your teaching philosophy, how you put this into effect in your teaching practice, how you have been supporting every pupil to success, with examples, and what you would hope to contribute to the new school.”
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