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Spoilt for choice in teacher shortfall

It is a job-seeker's market, so work out what you want and take time to find out if the job and the school really is for you, advises Jill Parkin.

The TES jobs sections grow fat on teacher shortages and over the next few weeks we are likely to print some of our biggest issues as schools strive to fill gaps they already have and those they can see looming in September.

The silver lining to the cloud of pupils on a four day week and maths teachers on the endangered species list is that job-seekers are spoilt for choice. So, with multiple job sections in hand, how do you begin to work out what you should go for?

You know your subject, you know the rank you are aiming for and, unless you are fancy-free, you know in what area you want to find a job. But even having refined your search that far, the chances are that there will be more career possibilities than you can shake a CV at.

There is an art in interpreting advertisements, which increasingly emphasise what schools offer staff - especially classroom teachers - as well as what is expected of them. Take time to find out whether the job and the school for you. Use the Office for Standards in Education and TES websites to get a profile of the school and send off for any package they offer. Some schools also have their own websites.

It is easy to see ads as so many cliched phrases, but it is important to compare job specifications with your own ambitions. Do you want to share school management or would you rather concentrate on the classroom and curriculum development? Would a particular religious ethos or emphasis on pastoral care and discipline be a plus or a minus for you?

If a school is said to be over-subscribed, find out what that means. It is obviously popular and therefore presumably doing a good job, but will you be teaching from a converted stationery cupboard as more and more children are packed into your classroom?

Look for the magical words "professional development" and find out what the school actually offes. In this market you are less likely to put an employer off by asking about courses and training.

If you are going for a senior post, look for management allowances. Subjects such as information and communications technology and science may well offer technical support too. "Recruitment allowance" could be an extra incentive.

Check the job's non-contact time. The fact that many schools now mention it suggests it is getting rarer. It could mean one 45-minute free period a week.

Schools quite naturally are very selective when quoting Ofsted reports, but if they do not quote them at all you might ask yourself why. It could be that the last inspection was years ago - and one is in the offing - or it might be that the report was bad.

If you discover from the ad, the information pack or the Internet that the school is in special measures or similar (the words "challenging", "innovative" and "forward-looking" are often a clue) and you still think it may be for you, ask for a copy of the action plan to find out what the school is doing and what support it can offer you as part of the team.

If you are newly qualified, check the induction programme and the teaching load. Some schools also offer a July andor August salary for NQTs starting in September.

Your career move is important but there are lesser considerations too. Local education authorities these days offer all sorts of come-on goodies, some worth more than others. Are you really going to be seduced by a laptop computer or an interactive whiteboard? On the other hand, the interest-free loan, transport deal or relocation package might be worth having. Ring the authority and find out the details. If you are prepared to move, then get an idea of local house prices soon.

In the end it is the job that is important, not the freebies. After all, if you feel the interview has gone well, you could always try to strike a better deal from your position of strength. How about going for a laptop and luncheon vouchers?

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