13th July 2007 at 01:00
Q I am a headteacher of a primary school, and I read your column almost every week. I know that you normally answer questions from teachers looking for jobs, but could you for once look at the other side of the picture and advise me how to go about advertising a main scale primary teaching post in September without being swamped with applications?

A This is an interesting question that takes me back to the first management courses I ran over 30 years ago, when I was working in Haringey. As far as schools are concerned, we are in a golden age for recruitment, even in areas such as London that have had chronic teacher shortages for most of the past three decades.

Yes, I know there are still problems at middle and senior management, and in some subjects such as maths, English and the physical sciences but, particularly for main scale vacancies, schools are receiving many more applications than a few years ago. So what can you do to ensure you don't have a mound of applications to wade through, but you still attract the right candidate? First, you must ensure you don't break the law. No discrimination is allowed. So you cannot say you want a young, fit, new teacher to work alongside a staffroom of old fogies. Not only would that be discriminatory but it wouldn't do much for your relationship with the rest of the staff. Secondly, don't be too ambitious. If the person to be appointed will teach a key stage 1 class, they should be able to demonstrate how their teaching or training has prepared them to get the best from this age group. This should help to show anyone only looking for a post teaching a key stage 2 class that this isn't a job to waste their time with.

If there are challenges you might have hidden before, you can be more open now. If you have large numbers of pupils with free school meals, or statements of special needs, you can make a virtue out of the fact by looking for candidates who welcome working with these children. There used to be an estate agent in London called Roy Brookes who sold houses by emphasising their negative points, such as next to the motorway or under the Heathrow flight path. I don't think you should go that far, but a touch more realism might cut the pile of applications to more manageable proportions.

Writing a good advert is a fine art and not a science, and you should seek what help you can. See the TES website Recruit Now section for advice on how to place the most effective ad

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

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