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Shaping up for a perfect match

Going for a job is not just about selling yourself but also about finding out whether the school is the right one for you. Joy Barrow outlines some of the factors to consider

The time has come, the end is in sight, but how do you know which jobs to apply for and, if you are called for an interview, whether this will be the right school for you? There are a host of factors to consider and don't forget: an interview is a two-way process, and both you and the school need to find out about each other.

First is location. Family commitments may mean that you are restricted in geographic area although, if you research local transport provisions, you may find that you can apply to a wider area than you anticipated. The cost of local accommodation may not necessarily be a deterrent as surrounding areas may be substantially cheaper - and your prospective school may be able to help.

The school itself will be a consideration. What is its status? You may feel strongly about whether it should be local-authority controlled or grant maintained, or you may be ambivalent.

What about the pupil intake? The academic achievements of the school will be important for some, while others will positively wish to work in a school with an intake from a wide variety of backgrounds rather than one that is mono-cultural.

Within your subject area other issues will arise. Is your subject taught at examination level? If it is, will you be given the opportunity to teach an examination group? If there are no examination classes, what are the reasons for this? Is it important to you to teach examination classes?

Where you have concerns regarding the status of your subject in the school the amount of capitation your area is given is often very revealing, especially if you are able to compare it with that given to a similar subject. Alternatively, you could ask what method is used to calculate capitation. The way your subject is taught within the school may also be a consideration. Some people have strong views regarding whether teaching groups should be mixed-ability or set according to perceived academic ability. For others the debate in respect of differentiation, by outcome, task, or not at all, is important.

Teaching methods are another issue, for example worksheet dominated or research based. Alternatively, a variety of methods may be employed. Some heads of department adopt a laissez-faire attitude whereas you may wish for greater support. Others may expect you to toe their policy line, while you may wish to develop your own ideas. During your teaching practice you will have begun to sense the style of teaching and management that you are most comfortable with.

Finally, you are important. What support is the school going to offer you? Will you be given a reduced timetable? If it is an LEA school, what kind of package in the way of specifically designed NQT courses does the authority offer, and will you be automatically released to attend them? A GMS school may buy in to LEA provision or have designed their own. You need to find out.

Remember, too, that you may not find a school that matches your ideal; you may have to weigh up the advantages and shortcomings of one against those of several others.

Joy Barrow is head of religious education and assistant staff development officer at Vyners School, Ickenham, Middlesex.

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