I know this has been a tough year for a lot of trainees in terms of finding and securing their first jobs, so I thought it might be useful to have a guide on the subject! A lot of this will be applicable to all classroom teaching jobs, but it’s specifically aimed at Early Career Teachers trying to secure their first role!
Now (early June) is often the peak time for trainees getting jobs, so if you haven’t found your post for September yet, don’t lose heart!Finding a vacancy
Most schools will use a teaching specific website to advertise their vacancies.
The big ones are:https://www.tes.com/jobs/https://www.eteach.com/https://teaching-vacancies.service.gov.uk/
(This is a new service, but I believe it doesn’t charge schools a fee, and so is already quite popular with schools).
There is also https://www.myjobscotland.gov.uk/categories/education
Schools will also list vacancies on their websites, and you usually apply direct to the school, rather than via a third party.
Some schools now also advertise via social media such as Twitter. Twitter can also be good for networking and making links with people who might employ you. Applications
Teaching job applications are a pain in the arse. Every LA and MAT has their own application form, and they are all formatted slightly differently, so even copying and pasting your information across isn’t straightforward.
When listing prior jobs, for your first teaching role, you should list your placement schools- this gives employers some idea of the sort of schools you have been working in. At the start of the form, there’s usually an area for main duties and responsibilities. This is the place where you share the age groups you have been teaching, and anything else that may make you very useful to the school (e.g. if you are first aid trained etc).
Most of the form is very straightforward. There is sometimes a safeguarding question on the form, which you should answer in the standard way (don’t ask leading questions, don’t promise to keep anything a secret, report to DSL as soon as possible, etc).
Do make sure the information on the form is accurate- lots of parts of the form are relevant to “safer recruitment” and getting details wrong may jeopardise your job offer down the line. Letter of Application
This is the key section of your application in terms of getting a job. This is the place to sell yourself and show why you’d be an excellent fit for the role! Some schools will ask for a “supporting statement” on their application form, which serves a similar purpose. If there is no supporting statement on the application form, you MUST write a letter of application, even if the advert does not specifically ask for it.
Your letter of application should be about 2 sides of A4 (not longer) in size 10-12 font. Obviously, it’s important to show you have a good standard of written English in the letter! If you’re applying by email, you can either copy the letter into the body of the email, or send it as an attachment with the email.
Different people structure their letters in different ways, but the key part of this is to address as many points on the “personal spec” included in the job advert as possible. A lot of people will put the spec into a table and address it point by point, then turn this into a letter. It can also be a good idea to look at the school improvement plan, and show you have skills which will benefit the school going forwards.
When I was applying for NQT (now ECT) roles, the way I structured my letter was:
-Brief intro giving a little bit of background about myself, and explaining what attracted me to their school. I used this section to show I had read the school website, and tried to suggest I had a keen interest in working for their school specifically.
-Brief description (one paragraph) of my background prior to teaching, and why I wanted to teach.
-Bulk of the letter, addressing the personal spec with examples from my PGCE and my prior work. I would have e.g. a paragraph dealing with my teaching style, a paragraph dealing with teamwork, a paragraph for assessment, a paragraph on extra-curricular, and so on.
-Finish with a very brief summary reiterating the things that had attracted me to this vacancy.
If you are struggling with getting interviews it will usually
be your letter of application that is hurting you. It’s a good idea to get advice from your mentor, but even better if you can get advice from people in your placement school who make hiring decisions. References
References may be taken up prior to interview, so warn your references before you start applying! As a PGCE student, it’s normal to use your uni tutor and a school mentor. If you’re already working in a teaching role, you MUST use your current head- this is a safeguarding thing and your application will be thrown out if you don’t do it.
If you’re unsure who to use as a reference, talk to your mentor and they will be able to help!Visits?
Some schools will encourage candidates to visit prior to applying. My understanding is that this is often seen as a key part of the application in primary, but it’s less essential at secondary level. Due to Covid-19, schools may not be running visits in the usual way.
Unfortunately, during my PGCE, at least, time spend on a visit to a school couldn’t be counted towards our training days, which can make visiting difficult.
If you do go on a visit prior to applying, treat it as part of the interview process. Dress smartly, be professional and polite, and maybe try to sell yourself a bit! You can definitely also try to get yourself an edge in the interview/application process by asking questions like “What skills do you see an ideal candidate for this role as having?” etc. The interview
Teaching interviews are usually an all day affair. Everyone in teaching understands this, and it’s fine to ask for time off to attend an interview.
The format of the day will usually be something like this:
-Introduction from the head/governors/etc.
-Individual panel interviews
You can sometimes also be asked to do other tasks like a marking task, and at secondary there will usually be a chance to meet other members of the department you’ll be working in.
The key parts of the interview are usually the lesson and the individual interviews. The tour and the student panels are generally just chances for you to show how well you can interact with students, and a chance for you to find a bit more out about the school!What to wear! For men, this is pretty easy- full suit and tie plus smart shoes. I'd personally go for a suit and blouse or formal dress + blazer but I have seen women interview in less formal outfits. Do bear in mind that your shoes need to be suitable for a tour of the school which may include walking on grass! I think it's most important that you're comfortable in your outfit, but I would aim to be a step up in formality from your day to day teaching wear! Interview lesson
This will usually be a short(ish) segment of a lesson (20-30 minutes is standard) so that observers can get a bit of an idea about your teaching style and how you manage a classroom. The class will usually be well behaved, and you’ll usually be given the topic and the details of the class ahead of time. (A small number of schools have moved to a format where you plan your lesson in an hour on the day).
You’ll need to come prepared with any printed resources you will need for your lesson, but you can usually ask the school for things like mini-whiteboards etc.
A good structure for a 20-25 minute lesson is as follows:
-Introduce yourself to the class and briefly set out some basic expectations.
-A short starter to “hook” students in. You may also want to briefly assess prior knowledge here.
-Some form of teacher input from yourself, ideally with some questioning of the class.
-Set students off on the main task. (I think it’s fine to give them a bit less time here than they would normally need to complete the task). This task should ideally be something engaging for students, but it also needs to be something that won’t cause a lot of confusion in a short time frame. It’s better to keep things simple to start with, and have extensions available, too. During this time, try to circulate and support/prompt students.
-Finish with some for of AfL in a plenary.
It can be useful to have some kind of lesson plan to refer back to in individual interviews, and some schools will like to see a lesson plan, even if they don’t specifically ask for one! It may well be worth going through your lesson plan with your mentor in school, as well!
When you finish your lesson, it’s a good idea to write a brief reflection on the lesson- you’ll be asked about it in the individual interviews, so it’s useful to think about what went well, what could have gone better, and where you’d take the learning next.
The lesson doesn’t need to be ground-breaking, necessarily, although I do think interviewers like things which are fun and a little bit different! Most schools are looking at: your classroom presence, your ability to ensure students are making progress, appropriate subject knowledge, your ability to prepare and appropriately pitch a task, what you do if things go wrong, and how you differentiate for weaker/stronger members of the group.
The lesson is important, and some schools will send you home if they feel your lesson isn’t up to scratch. It’s also important that the lesson is your own work as far as possible. Schools will reject candidates if they suspect they’ve e.g. bought a lesson from TES to use.Panel Interview
This will usually be with 3-5 people, including HoD (secondary) or Head of Key Stage/Year Team (primary), a member of SLT, a governor or trustee, sometimes other members of the department, sometimes the head of school.
Schools will ask a range of questions (See the second post in this thread for examples of interview questions you may be asked).
It’s impossible to prepare for every question you could be asked about at interview, but it can be useful to familiarise yourself with the STAR technique, as well as think of a few key selling points you want to get in somewhere!
At the end of the interview, it’s fine to go back and add a few extra points to your answers if you wish, but try not to do this for more than one or two questions.
You will then be asked if you have any questions. It’s fine to say no! It’s also important to think about the way you phrase questions e.g. asking about workload directly can be frowned upon BUT you can ask things like “What is the department’s marking policy? How much shared planning is there?”. Some heads also won’t like to directly be asked about the school’s Ofsted, especially if there are failings, but you can ask questions like “What is your vision for the school moving forwards?” etc.
If you feel you must ask a question, asking about CPD or early career development can be a good, safe choice.
You will finally be asked if you are a firm candidate for the role, still. Don’t be freaked out by this, it’s a standard question. It’s fine to say no (or excuse yourself at any point during the interview). If you say yes, and then turn down the job later, it’s frowned upon. Your new job!
Usually, you will find out on the day, or at the very worst the day after, if you got the job. If you didn’t, do ask for feedback, and this can be very helpful.
In my opinion, when you have the offer is the time to start negotiating e.g. starting salary etc (do be aware this is only possible in very shortage subjects, or if you have loads of relevant experience).
If you’ve said you’ll accept the job, it is considered bad form to turn it down now without good reason (e.g. they are offering a temporary contract, when the role was advertised as permanent). However, it is far better to turn down the role now, than accept and turn down at a later time.
In general, you are expected to give an answer there and then- it’s not normal to be able to ask them to wait, e.g. a week because you’ve got another interview.
If you’re already in a job, don’t give notice until you’ve got the contract for you new job signed! Once you’ve signed the contract, do be aware you are expected to stop applying for other jobs. Backing out of a signed contract can hugely damage your reputation locally, and really hamper your career. It will almost certainly get you “blacklisted” at that specific school.
Please feel free to use this thread for any discussions around job hunting, or any questions you want to ask! It would be great if people could share their own experiences/advice in the thread, too!