Perfect on paper

Sara Bubb reveals how to stop your job application ending up in the bin

In the competitive market for teaching jobs, what you look like on paper is all important. Indeed, what your application smells like can make a difference so do not be surprised if ones reeking of cigarettes go straight in the bin.

First, read instructions carefully and follow them to the letter, including any instructions about sending photocopies, using paper clips rather than staples or writing your application in black ink.

If the form requires you to list your teaching practice placements, include all the information they ask for and your final dates, even if you don't know which school you will be in. This should flag up if you are only a fraction of the way through your training.

Check the closing date and make sure you have plenty of time to contact referees, complete the form and re-read it before posting.

The form will probably ask for your Department for Education and Skills or teacher reference number. It starts with the last two numbers of the year you qualify and is not the same as your skills test number.

Most PGCE students are given a teacher reference number in the summer term, so for now write down "TBA" or "to be advised". Similarly, if the form asks for the date of award of qualified teacher status, write when it's likely to be, ie, "predicted July 2007".

Normally, you need to name two referees. Make sure you have asked their permission and warn them of key dates because turn around time is often tight and they are doing you a favour.

Check what contact details you should put on the form - sometimes college tutors prefer to have requests faxed to an administrator for speed. Don't forget common politeness in your accompanying letter or note and always correctly spell the name of the person you are sending the form to.

Dave Coram, Lambeth's teacher recruitment co-ordinator, sees hundreds of applications and says people who email them with no accompanying message often come across as rude.

He says: "A simple, 'Please find attached my application form for the primary NQT pool' goes a long way."

Some forms ask for recreational and other special interests which may also be relevant. Playing the guitar or piano is a boon but don't exaggerate - you may be expected to play in assembly

Sara Bubb is an education consultant specialising in induction. She regularly answers questions on our forums at

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