I know the job market is tough, but don't just leap at the first one that comes along unless you think you will be reasonably happy. It's worth trying to visit before applying, or attending the interview, because if you then have a bad gut feeling, you won't waste everyone's time.
Headteachers differ as to how they react to visits. Many are happy to see you taking the application process seriously, others don't allow visits until people have been shortlisted, because they would be inundated, and a few bin applications from candidates who haven't bothered to visit.
And beware: it gives school leaders a chance to check you out, too. First impressions count, and though it is not a formal interview, remember you are on show. Dress smartly and be friendly. Ask pupils and staff about the work they are doing and show an interest. Look at displays, peer through classroom doors, and observe the way pupils and staff conduct themselves.
Find complimentary things to say. And then seize the chance to relate the first sentence of your personal statement to your visit. Something like:
"Having visited your school, I was impressed by... because this is something that I feel passionately about."
Who knows what might happen? One guy went to look at a school before applying for a job and, while being shown round, was asked whether he would accept the job if offered. He said yes, and later in the day was offered it by phone. He filled in the application form as a formality, didn't have to go through an interview and the next day the advert was taken off the local authority website, before the closing date.
Another new teacher got the first job she applied for by visiting the school, posting a thank you letter and then submitting a personalised application. Even though nerves got the better of her at the interview, she got the job anyway because she had made such a great impression.
Sara Bubb is an education consultant specialising in induction. She regularly answers questions at www.tes.co.ukstaffroomnew_teachers