Q) As a PGCE student who is on the wrong side of 45 and with a degree in economics, how can I convey the positive aspects of my degreematurity on applications for teaching posts? I have worked in the financial sector until now and have no experience of schools other than my present PGCE course. How can I make my application stand out from the crowd?

A) Obviously, what you wrote in your PGCE application was good enough to get you an interview for the course and then to be offered a place. So, you must know something about convincing a sceptical audience.

Don't forget that you now have the benefit of having been in the classroom and teaching children. There must be lots of positive things that you can say as a result of your work with pupils.

An application is a marketing exercise; you need to accentuate the positive. Start with the course, and what you have achieved, then, if you need to draw attention to your degree subject, go back to what you wrote when justifying the content of your degree on your application form. If, as is likely, your degree was some years ago, point this out and explain what other expertise you have acquired. You may be comfortable with figures in a manner that some new teachers are not.

There may be other interests and life experiences that will help you as a teacher that someone younger than you may not be able to bring to teaching.

However, it will not be easy, especially if you are tied to finding a teaching post in a relatively small area. Make sure you use your contacts at the schools where you have been placed and among your course staff.

Visit the careers centre for advice: many have built up experience of dealing with students like you. Some offer mock interviews and help with the application process. Above all, don't become dispirited if you aren't having any success. Try to approach every job afresh, as the school will approach your application form. Finally, do have a fallback strategy in place if a job doesn't materialise.

There is no use sitting around doing nothing and complaining. Keep active and show that you can cope with disappointment in a positive manner. Then, in the autumn when a job appears, you will be better placed than those who have done nothing since the end of their course but wait for a job.

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes university. To ask him a question, email

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