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Best foot forward

Applications, interviews, career planning, and much more: everything job hunters need to know in an invaluable three-week TES series

Applying for a job, at any level, can be daunting, but if you know what to look out for it should be fairly simple, says Phil Revell

Time for a change? Looking for a different challenge, a new staffroom, a more amenable bunch of kids? Where do you start? Obviously you'll have an idea of the kind of job you are looking for. Newly qualified teachers might be considering a second school to build on their experience - and leave their mistakes behind. Experienced staff will be going for curriculum leadership posts, heads of department for senior management. But the principles are the same, so here are some simple things to watch out for when applying for any job, at any level.

It costs to move

Promotion in teaching isn't usually a spectacular affair; at best you might expect to earn a couple of thousand a year more. If the new job is in another town or region you could end up paying a bigger mortgage and incurring the huge expense of a house move. So rule number one is that you don't up sticks to take a new job unless you were intending to move anyway.

Look before you leap

Start with the advertisement. If you find a job you like, check the whole classified section of The TES or search online ( to look for other ads from the same school. If a school has multiple ads, ask yourself why. And then ponder why the ads haven't been placed in one block. Could it be that this school does not want to draw attention to the fact that half its staff are disappearing?

Check the ad for clarity and content. Does it include the telephone number and email address of the school? Does it give a postcode so that you can use a mapping program to look up its exact location on the web?

Send off for the information. Can you do this online? Does the school allow you to go through the entire application process using the internet? It ought to: it's cheaper for them and for you.

What kind of information do you receive?

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, an applicant should expect a job description, a person specification, some information about the employer, details of staff facilities and some background information about the department or section the person will be working in.

Let's transpose that to teaching. The job description and person specification are sometimes combined in one document but they should be clear. "Year 4 class teacher" is not a job description, unless all the school ever expects you to do is teach Year 4 - and that seems a little unlikely. The person spec should give clues about what kind of experience the school is looking for. Schools can't stipulate age, but if they appointed three NQTs last year the head may feel that another one would overwhelm the staff's ability to support a newcomer.

What's the school like?

Check its exam or test history. Look at the last Ofsted report. What kind of ethos does it have? Is there a uniform? What kind of curriculum initiatives has the school developed recently? It's amazing how many schools simply send their brochure to prospective applicants. One such pack included the school uniform policy and the procedure for dealing with nits but nothing about staff facilities. They should provide information on parking - especially in areas where on-street parking is impossible - and about the staffroom.

Some heads apparently think that staff facilities are the last thing they should spend money on, and their staffrooms are poky little rat holes. If there is no information about staff facilities perhaps you should smell a rat - and apply somewhere else.

Whose job is this anyway?

And what about you? What is this new employer offering you? Does the application pack say anything about professional development? This is especially relevant if the post carries management responsibility. Look at the person specification to see if the school is interested in what training applicants have had, then study the job information to see if there is any professional development on offer. For some posts, such as special needs co-ordinator (Senco), additional training would be essential.

Aspiring deputies should look carefully to see whether the National Professional Qualification for Headship is mentioned in the pack.

Few people go for deputies jobs without thinking about the next step up, and schools taking on new deputies should be making a commitment to support people through the NPQH process.

No Party poopers There's one aspect of the teacher's job that rarely gets a mention. The social life. In other jobs employers emphasise the social benefits; staff events, sports teams, annual jollies. Commercial employers often subsidise these activities because they value the camaraderie and cohesion that results.

What do schools offer? Some a lot; others seem surprised that teachers expect to have a social life at all. Few put details about staff activities in the applicant pack. Why not? These are going to be your future colleagues. You might be delighted about the prospect of working with a staffroom of charity fundraisers who came to work as tarts and vicars on Red Nose Day. Or then again, you might not.

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