NQTs start here!
Jobhunting for NQTs: begin here!
This is a very stressful situation for you, I know, so here is a quick summary (well, fairly quick and fairly summarised!) of what you should be doing, and when, and how.
When should you start applying?
From January onwards, if you have done at least one Professional Practice in a school so that you can talk about this experience.
The best ways to find suitable vacancies is to sign up on the TES website for a Job Alert This will send you an e-mail every week (or more often if you choose) with details of jobs that match your defined requirements: Stage, Subject, Location, etc. You should also download the new TES Jobs App – it’s free from the iTunes App and Google Play stores.
And you should go on applying until you get a job. The resignation date for permanent staff in schools is May 31st. After that date, jobs can only be given to people not in a permanent post in schools, which means supply teachers, unemployed teachers, returning teachers, and above all: NQTs. So you have a good chance then of getting a job if you didn’t manage it earlier in the year.
I once appointed a superb teacher in A-level results week in August. Why on earth nobody else had snapped her up earlier I'll never know, but I was very grateful that they hadn't!
Where should you apply?
Remember that there are some schools where you cannot do induction, such as those requiring special measures after an Ofsted Inspection. Academies, however, can certainly provide induction for you, as can most – but not all – Independent Schools. For the latter you should check that they are registered with the Independent Schools Teacher Induction Panel. Read the advice articles that I have written on working in an independent school – details below. Free Schools may also offer induction, but I suggest that you check that they already offered it last year; it might not be a good idea to be the guinea pig in their first year of supporting a NQT.
One place – or rather, several thousand places – where I do NOT advise you to apply is for a job in a British school abroad. Yes, teaching in Dubai not Doncaster, Marbella not Maidstone, Beijing not Basingstoke, Kurdistan not Kettering, this certainly has its attractions. But most British schools abroad (apart from Service Children’s Education – the Army Schools as they used to be called) cannot do NQT induction. So if you go there, spend a couple of years in the sunshine (or the smog, if Beijing), trying to get a job back in the UK again will be fraught with difficulties, because you will officially still be a NQT and need an induction post. I will add that reputable schools abroad generally insist on at least one, preferably two years’ UK experience before they will consider you. So get your induction under your belt and then indulge your wanderlust.
Where should you go for advice on your application?
I’ll start off by saying where you shouldn’t go. Don’t go Googling on the internet (how many other applicants have seen that personal philosophy of teaching?), and don’t go to your friends to see their statement. A Secondary Head in England says: Don’t use anyone else’s statement to ‘give you ideas’ – if you can’t write your own, you’ve no business applying to be a teacher.
Another reason for not looking at someone else’s statement (nor showing them yours!) is that your application could be automatically rejected for plagiarism. Why? Because you may have unwittingly copied something, it just got stuck in your mind and you include it in your application.
And of course if you pass your statement to someone else, they could pass it on to a third – or fourth – person. A school could receive your application and theirs, not know which of you was the original author of the similar or identical paragraph, and bin you both. Some schools and local authorities are using plagiarism software similar to that used by UCAS to weed out applications that are not your own work – be warned.
The best place for up-to-date advice is the Jobseekers forum here on TES, where your queries are answered by me. Do give a brief description of the query in the title.
I’ll add that the advice from your University Tutors may not always be as useful as it could be, unless they have actually been involved in the selection and appointment of teachers in schools. Which they usually haven’t! One Tutor recently told PGCE students that all application letters should be handwritten.
Handwritten! No Thank You!
Tutors also often advise you to write See letter instead of filling in the form completely. No, please don’t do that!
What should your application include?
The first rule here is that it should include everything that the school asks for, so don’t write See letter where it asks for details of your extra-curricular activities. This is one of the most annoying things for me, when you can’t be bothered to do what we ask. If you cannot be bothered to take the information and put it in the right place on the form, why should I bother to trawl through your letter to do it? Can't do as s/he is asked - bin it.
The two main parts of your application will normally be the application form, and the supporting statement or letter, with a summary at the end, if possible. Maintained schools in England and Wales shouldn’t ask for a CV, so don’t bother doing one, except as a convenient place for you to keep all your information and dates for filling in forms.
See the advice article: Get ready for the application season! This is a must-read for you in preparation for sending out applications.
Wherever possible, it’s a good idea to do an Executive Summary. Either slot it neatly into the page on the application form that asks for extra information, or make it page three of your letter or separate statement, so that it prints out automatically. More about that below.
The application form.
When you get a form in digital format, the very first thing that you must do is save it to your computer with a different filename. Call it, for example, JohnSmithapplicationGreengates, so that both your name and the school’s name are in the filename. Do the same for your letter. This is to avoid you getting mixed up, and to enable them to identify your documents immediately.
Fill the form in completely, do not leave anything empty; put N/A if appropriate. Read the instructions carefully – it costs nothing to get the little things right. Your referees should be your BEd or PGCE tutor, plus someone from your Professional Practice school, normally your mentor. It is courteous to ask permission from the latter before putting them down.
The statement or letter
At this stage in your career, you are going to write pretty much the same thing for every application. Try to tailor it a little to the specific school. A Deputy Head and NQT induction tutor says: Make sure that you research the school. Schools say similar things about their aims and ethos, so it’s more useful to read the newsletters and scrutinise the calendar.
Do check and check again that you haven’t got the name of the wrong school in your letter – it happens all too often. The letter should have a very high level of literacy – there is no excuse for grammar or spelling mistakes.
Your statement should address the points in their job details. It should also have something about your personal philosophy of education. Tell me about the teacher that you are, and will be in a year’s time. Tell me what you’ve learned from your training so far and how you’re putting it into practice in the classroom. Tell me what makes you better than all the other applicants. But tell me in your own words, not those you’ve trawled for on the internet, says a Primary Head in Sheffield.
A Deputy Head in Wales has this to add: Tell me all about your sporting interests, community involvement, talents that may be useful in a school beyond the classroom, such as playing an instrument or charity work. I want to know how you, above others, will contribute to my school and what gifts you can bring that I can harness and develop as you begin your professional journey.
I'm looking for an application that is well written - definitely no spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors and absolutely no 'text' language or colloquialisms - and is in the applicant's own words, reflecting their experience, philosophy of education and their reasons for wanting to work in my school. I do not want a re-hashed version of someone else's words or a generic statement that they're clearly using for other applications, is the view of a Secondary Head in the North West.
The Executive Summary
This is a table where you set out, on one side only, their requirements from the person specification, showing how you meet them. If there isn’t a specification, then use the Teachers’ Standards.
In fact, I recommend you to do an Executive Summary based on the Teachers’ Standards as your first task in job hunting. It shows you clearly what your skills and experiences are, so will help you write a letter or statement that is focussed in part on your professionalism. You can often use the E.S. for different schools, if they happen not to have a Person Specification, so it’s time well spent.
But be warned! The E.S. is a difficult thing to do, and will take several hours if you are going to do it properly. And again: do NOT show yours to anyone else, you want to keep it for yourself to avoid plagiarism.
You’ll find more help on writing the Executive Summary in the TES Jobseekers advice articles. There are a large number of them, on different topics, so I’ll just highlight the ones that are most relevant to you at this stage.
Applying for a job in a school, I suggest that you read these in this order:
How to get shortlisted for a teaching job *** The basic advice***
Step-by-step: How to write an E.S. *** More basic advice ***
Person Spec too long - how do I do an E.S.? And where do I put it? *** Beginners start here ***
Applying for a job in an independent school, I suggest that you read these in this order:
When you get called to an interview, come and tell me on the Jobseekers forum, and I'll give you advice about the whole interview process, including general advice about the observed lesson. Don't ask for ideas for your lesson, nor for answers to possible interview questions, though. If you think about it, it would be daft to do that; how many people do you suppose read my answers every week?
I hope that this is useful for you as you start on the road to the Best Job in the World.