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People skills can get you a job

Musical, stage and sporting talents are all extras that schools look for on a CV, writes Jill Parkin, but can you add first aid or counselling? List all the experience you can bring to a job.

If you want to get a teaching job, get yourself a life, the sort of life you can put on a CV. Candidates who concentrate on their subject to the exclusion of other interests are at a disadvantage compared to broader-based colleagues.

If your subject is history, no one is going to be impressed that you watch historical dramatisations on television. It would be more in your favour to reveal that you make weapons for Sealed Knot battles or, better still, go along to them as a member of St John Ambulance.

"It's a good idea to demonstrate a life outside school," says Chris Purser of the National Association of Head Teachers. "As well as bringing extra skills to the school, it shows you have a broader experience of life if you can include community activities. It might be meals-on-wheels, choral singing, amateur dramatics or sitting on the parochial church council.

'Then there are skills which might be handy in school, perhaps artistic or photographic talent, even gardening expertise. You might have a qualification, perhaps first aid or having been trained as a counsellor."

There was a time when extra skills meant being able to play the piano or run the netball club after school. They are still useful but other things may count more.

Computer skills are now covered by the basic competencies trainees have to demonstrate in order to get newly qualified teacher status, but older teachers should include any information technology experience in their CV.

Mark Trott, head of the 830-pupil Ocklyge Junior school in Eastbourne, says: "Any sort of sporting qualification or experience is useful, so is any musical ability, whether it's singing or playing. And we don't get enough people with skills in drama. This year we took on two NQTs with useful extra experience, one with drama and artistic ability and one who had been a Sunday school teacher and worked with a choir. Those qualities would be universally sought-after in schools.

"On a personal level," he adds, "I'm looking for teachers with a broad view of life and bit of get up and go. In the past teachers often had a narrow experience: school, university and back to school. I take notice if someone has done VSO, charity or youth work. It may have taken them out of the profession for a year or two, but it will have enriched them. Experience in the community is a plus."

Inner city schools may be looking for other qualities. At Canning Street Primary school in Benwell, an area of Newcastle upon Tyne, 35 per cent of its 385 pupils come from ethnic minorities. Headteacher Dame Mavis Grant says: "I need people who can demonstrate understanding and experience of family breakdown, sexual abuse, child mobility. We have some six-year-olds who have already been to five or six schools.

"People may have trained with Relate, the Samaritans or something similar. It may even come down to reading they have done.

"Teachers need to be aware of relationships and able to form them. You need to demonstrate awareness and flexibility. How are you going to handle the arrival of refugee children without that? Experience of ethnic minorities is useful. Community experience suggests commitment and some of these children desperately need that."

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