Careers clinic

28th November 2008 at 00:00
If you have a question, turn to John Howson or Sara Bubb, our experts who offer advice every week in TES magazine

Q: Help - I need advice on controlling nerves at interviews. I am confident in the classroom and truly believe I can excel as a teacher. However, I am a gibbering wreck when it comes to interviews. I have my third interview soon and am determined not to lose out because of nerves this time. Can you offer me some tips?

Everyone is nervous before an important event such as an interview. However, if it is so overpowering that it is wrecking your chances, it is time to take action. You need to feel good about yourself and remember that the first question is usually a soft one. If you have the confidence to teach a class of children then you should be able to face an interview panel.

Treat it as a question and answer session. It may be that your non-verbal communication is signalling insecurity to the panel and they are responding to this.

Start acting as a teacher as you enter the interview room, make eye contact, walk tall and smile a lot. Try some practice questions with a friend. You did after all make it through the interview to train to become a teacher.

Q: I really need to leave my current job. Last week the straw broke the camel's back and I just feel that enough is enough. However, my headteacher is a bully and I don't want to use him as a reference. I have friends who have got teaching jobs without using their headteacher as a reference, so I know that it can be done. Who do I use as a reference when I give "employer" as a referee?

A: This is a tricky one. Normally, the absence of an employer as a referee raises questions in the minds of those considering applicants, even if references should come after deciding whether you are the best candidate for the job.

Sometimes teachers who have recently completed continuing professional development or a higher degree will use their tutor, or someone else in the local authority who knows their work.

Without these avenues, you can ask that references aren't taken up unless you are offered the post and then explain the situation and ask to see the reference in case there are actual factual inaccuracies or even actionable statements. Many appointment panels would look askance at references that differed wildly from the application and any views about you that they had formed at interview. Although your head may not like you, it will be abilities as expressed in your application and at interview that will secure you the next job.

So, use the head as a reference, but make it clear you will be asking to see a copy


John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training. He is now a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University.

Q: Is there any legislation about what time we should get to school in the morning?

A: There is not any national legislation on this level of detail that I know of. Teachers have to be available to work for 1,265 hours a year.

Am I right in thinking that someone has said that you should be in earlier than you are at the moment - or putting more hours in?

On average, primary teachers work 51.5 hours a week and secondary teachers do 48.7 hours in term time.

The start of the school day varies between 8.30 and 9am and most teachers get in at least half an hour before school starts in order to make sure they're prepared for the day ahead. It's not the length of time that matters but how you spend it.

Q: I have my first induction assessment next week, which is a bit scary. What should I do to prepare for it?

A: Firstly, there's no need to worry. All new teachers will be having an assessment around now. You don't need to prepare anything special but it's a good idea to reflect on how you're doing.

Don't waste time photocopying evidence because everything you've been doing as a real teacher should be evidence for how well you're meeting the standards. Having said that, it'll help your induction tutor if you make notes about how you think you're doing. Find out what headings they'll be writing against. The three headings of the standards in England are professional attributes, knowledge and understanding, and skills.

The standards have also been organised into themes, such as developing professional and constructive relationships; working within the law and frameworks; professional knowledge and understanding; professional skills; and developing practice.

You can't fail your first or second term on induction because it's only the judgment at the end of the third term that has dire consequences.

Your headteacher has to make a recommendation about whether your progress indicates that you will or that you may not be able to meet the standards by the end of the induction year. If your progress isn't up to scratch, the school and local appropriate body need to ensure that support and monitoring mechanisms are in place to give you every possible chance of success.

During the assessment meeting, suggest additions or revisions to the wording on the form so that you feel it's accurate. You should be clear about your strengths and areas for further development as well as what your targets are and what support is planned.

Write a professional comment on the form before it's signed and posted. Then put a copy into your professional portfolio


Sara Bubb was a primary teacher before becoming a teacher trainer. She is now an education consultant, lectures at the Institute of Education in London and has written extensively on induction and professional development.

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