What heads are looking for

10th January 2003 at 00:00
Your application form is the first chance you get to make a good impression onr a school, so you need to make sure it stands out from the crowd. To give you a few clues on what to include and what mistakes to avoid we asked a cross-section of headteachers what they were looking for when those applications hit their desks:

Peter Scott head of bancroft's independent school woodford london

"There are one or two obvious things I'm interested in: where they've gone to university and what sort of degree they've got. They don't need to have a first, but getting a decent degree definitely helps. After that I'm looking for anything that suggests the student has initiative. For example, I recently recruited a chemistry teacher who had spent a year on the Erasmus scheme in France. I could see he had an extra string to his bow and that made his application stand out. Extra-curricular things are a big help too and a willingness to have chipped in at university. I don't want to read a long personal statement. What I'd much rather hear about is what they've done with their life and if it's related to something that could be useful in teaching."

Suzanne Flack head of Sunnyhill Infant School Derby

"The first thing I notice is how the covering letter is presented. Make sure it's thoroughly checked with no typos or spelling mistakes. I also watch out for those standard phrases that the university has told students to drop into the letter. Stock phrases like 'child- centred education' and 'continuity and progression' can sound quite hollow. If you come to visit the school pre-interview make sure you try to impress the staff, be enthusiastic and make us feel you really want to work here. And definitely don't get your mum to phone up for an application form."

Bob Dingle headteacher of Seaham school of technology, County Durham

"What governors and head teachers are doing when they recruit is betting on horses. We're looking for a racing certainty. We don't bet on outsiders. The way an NQT can shorten the odds against them is by making sure their application is consistent and that the same message is being sent to us in their references, personal statement and application form. We're really turned off by bad spelling, bad grammar, hand-written forms from applicants who profess to be good at ICT, missing years and inconsistencies."

Mo Laycock headteacher at Firth Park community college Sheffield

"Obviously I'm looking for good qualifications, but I'm also interested in what wider interests the student has, that way I get a better flavour for what that person is really like. If you've done other jobs before going into teaching or to university then it's useful to produce a CV and to develop on how your previous experience could help in teaching. Because we're a school in challenging circumstances, I always have a good look at where students did their teaching practice to see if that's relevant to our situation. In a perfect world I'm looking for somebody who has a vision about education, not somebody who just comes in and does their hours."

Peter Bailey headmaster of Holmer Lane primary school Telford

"At a very basic level you have to give us the information we ask for. I had an applicant only last week that gave us just one reference when we'd asked for two. Don't go over the top with your personal statement. Try to stick to a maximum of two sides of A4. And to make the content easier to read sub-divide it into sections with crossheads - previous experience, why you want to become a teacher and so on."

Robert Johnson headteacher Don Valley high school Doncaster

"The covering letter is really important to me. What I'm looking for is a commitment to comprehensive education. I'm also searching for applicants who have added value - those who want to get involved in extra-curricular activities for example. I want to get a feel for the personality of the applicant. I want to know what's unique about them. And if they're passionate about something, I want to know about it."

Ann Oddy head of St Thomas of Canterbury RC primary school, Mitcham London

"I want applicants to be clear about how they organise their personal statements. They're much easier to read if they're organised into sections - their experience, their interests and so on. And then I want to hear something about themselves, about the aspects of teaching they enjoy and about anything extra they can offer my school."

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