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Where do I start?

Sara Bubb offers advice to students and NQTs

I've had three interviews and none has been successful. I don't know why, as I know I have good references and a strong academic record. It must be to do with my interview technique, but I'm not sure which bit! It's disheartening.

Three interviews isn't many, so don't get downhearted. Often schools will appoint an experienced teacher if they have the choice, so it's not that there's anything wrong with you, just that someone else was better on the day or was perceived as a safer bet. Ask for feedback so you can do something about a weakness.

Keep applying for posts, because there are job shortages in certain areas.

There have been plenty of vacancies for the past couple of years, and this has lulled teachers into a false sense of security. Trainees have been leaving applications later and later because they don't think they'll have a problem getting a job. But this year many schools have a reduced budget, which may mean job cuts. There are also more teachers around - 13,700 extra since January 2001. The DfES reckons the vacancy rate is now less than 1 per cent. My fellow TES columnist John Howson, a recruitment consultant, believes finding a job in the West Country and north-west England will become particularly tough. Even London will have fewer vacancies. One inner-London LEA reckons the number of NQTs next year will be half of this year's. On the other hand, schools with tight budgets will recruit new teachers because they're cheaper - fewer NQTs will get paid above the basic salary point.

After every interview note down the questions you were asked and reflect on how well you answered them, and ask for and act upon feedback. Cast your net a little wider geographically. But don't go for a school where you don't think you'll be happy and successful; it's not worth it. Prepare for the interview and lay the enthusiasm on thick. This is often where new teachers score over more experienced ones. You'll get a job soon!

* I'm in my second year of teaching maths. Is the pound;4,000 tax-free?

I presume you're referring to the golden hello, which isn't tax-free. The pound;4,000 will have national insurance payments and tax deducted, but it isn't pensionable. You'll end up with about pound;2,700. You can only claim it if you have done a secondary PGCE in maths in England or Wales since 1999-2000.

Are you a student or NQT? Email your questions to Sara Bubb's A Newly Qualified Teacher's Manual: how to meet the induction standards is published by David Fulton, pound;16

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