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Writing for Tes: an introductory guide

Before you pitch us an idea, read through these guidelines

writing for Tes

Before you pitch us an idea, read through these guidelines

Tes features around 100 teacher-writers every week across its print and online platforms. We also – less frequently – publish the work of academics, researchers, charity and policy personnel and, very occasionally, consultants.

But how do you get yourself published?

The vast majority of the articles we publish come from pitches: people getting in touch with an idea, and a rough outline of how it might work.

We receive hundreds of pitches every week, and only a small proportion of those will be accepted.

So what makes a good pitch and how do you increase your chances of success?

Here is your step-by-step guide.

Step One

Being a regular Tes reader is essential. It will mean you understand the sorts of articles that get published, it will ensure you have all the contextual education insight you need for a successful article, it will mean you understand what we cover and what we don’t and, perhaps most importantly, it will mean you know if someone has written your idea already.

Step Two

What are we looking for?

There are two main sections for which you are most likely to be writing: comment and features.

Comment

As the name suggests, this is all about opinion. If you have a view on a current educational issue, about something happening in schools, or a fresh take on a long-standing debate, then this is where you pitch your idea. Online, this tends to be ad-hoc pieces responding to news and events within the sector. In print, we run an essay each week that is more of a philosophical look at one particular aspect of education. 

Features

Features is all about guides, practical advice, new ways of doing things and the utilisation of research in teaching. Our main focus is teaching and learning, behaviour and pastoral care. If it goes beyond just giving an opinion and stretches in to how to do or change something, then features is where you pitch your idea.
 

We then have regular book reviews, and so commission reviewers every week. These are both children's books we get teachers to review with their class, and books on education that we get teachers to review. 

Finally, the newsdesk will also be happy to hear any leads you may have for news stories, but these would be written by our reporters.

Contacts are detailed in Step Four. 

Step Three

So you have been reading Tes for some time, you have read the guidelines on the two main sections, and you have an idea you think will work for one of the sections – what next?

Run a search through Google or on tes.com and see if we have published something similar (in angle, as well as topic) in the past six months. Say, for example, your idea is an attack on the three-part lesson. If you find a recently published article with the same line of attack, it’s time to think of another idea. But if yours is slightly different, it may still be worth pitching.

If there is nothing similar in the previous six months, then your next step is, ideally, to add two more ideas to your list.

It is absolutely fine to pitch a single idea, but it is much better if you can outline a few ideas at once. It gives you more chance of a positive reply and gives the editor a sense of your thinking.

Step Four

So you have 1-3 ideas. And you want to sit down and write a pitch. As mentioned, editors at Tes get hundreds of emails every day, so you need to focus your pitch on being succinct, but informative.

It is far better to do this over email than by telephone call, via social media or through any other medium. You might get lucky on a DM on Twitter, but more often than not we will just ask you to email over a pitch anyway.

Start by finding out who to email. 


Next: tell us who you are.

  • If a teacher: what phase and year group/subject do you teach?
  • If an academic: at which university and what is your area of expertise?
  • If from a policy or charity group: which one?
  • And if a consultant: to reiterate here, we very rarely take articles from consultants, due to the conflict of interest in terms of them having a product to sell.

Next: what is your idea in no more than two or three sentences?

That’s it. We don’t want to hear who else you write for (for most of our writers, we are the first publication they have written for); your writing experience (as editors, we care more about your idea than how well you put it together, we can help you with the latter); and we do not want your CV.

For the most part, we just want to know you are a currently working teacher or academic, and the outline of your idea.

In the subject line, please let us know who you are and the idea in brief, plus whether it is urgent.

So - an example:

Subject line: Pitch from secondary teacher – NE hardest place to teach

Hi Ed

I am a secondary English teacher in the North East.

I would like to write an article about why I believe the lack of funding for the North East region has a knock-on effect on the schools that makes teaching in this area far tougher than any other UK area.

Alternatively, I could write something about how I believe the NQT period should be three years not one; or why I think there should be compulsory physical activity after every lesson in the school day.

Many thanks for your time,

Louise Smith

Think you have already written something that we should publish?

Simply sending this in has a very low chance of success. We rarely, if ever, take fully-formed pieces. This is because it is very rarely the length, tone, style, focus or angle we would require.

The editor you contact also has hundreds of emails each day, so it is very unlikely they will have time to read 1,500 words they have not commissioned and that is unlikely to hit any of the specifications mentioned in the previous sentence.

Step Five

Then, unfortunately, you have to wait.

We endeavour to get back to people as soon as we can, but, in reality, it can sometimes take up to a fortnight. This is because we don’t just have to read your email along with the hundreds of others, we also have to think through your pitch and consider it properly.

If you have flagged it as urgent or we recognise it as such – perhaps you are responding to a government announcement or an event – there is a chance we will get back to you within the day. But if it does not fit these criteria, do not worry until a fortnight has passed.

If that time period has passed, and you have heard nothing, please do email again. There is a chance we may have lost your email, that it never arrived, or some other occurrence. So please do persist if you have not heard from us at all.

Step Six

If the answer is no, we will explain why. This does not mean you should give up writing at all; there are numerous reasons we turn down pitches. Please do pitch again with new ideas in the future.

If the answer is yes, the following will happen:

  • We will tell you which idea we like and how we would like it to be written.
  • We will give you a deadline and a wordcount.

Step Seven

Once written, again there may be a wait after submitting the article for feedback.

For features, in particular, this wait can be as long as a month as our lead times are so long. For print, it could be even longer.

Comment online tends to be more immediate and may appear on the same day that you file. For the print-based essay, however, lead times are longer.

If we make edits with no change in meaning to what was written, and that are minor, we may not send it back to you before publication.

If we make major changes, or changes to the meaning, we will send you the edit to ensure you are happy with the changes made.

We will sometimes ask you to make the edits, rather than us.

Step Eight

The article will be published and you can begin the process again if you would like to try and get published again. 

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