So you think that passing the QTS tests and surviving the PGCE year is the hardest thing about training to be a teacher. It’s not. Actually getting a job as a teacher is the biggest hurdle. I felt for a friend on my course who posted in our FB group last week. She had been to many interviews, but hadn’t gotten a job- and with the start of the six weeks holiday came the realisation that there were no more new jobs to get. So she has put teaching on the back burner and taken a job at a property law firm. 9grand and 9 months of sheer hell to not even use your PGCE. She couldn’t risk not getting regular supply work and was so short of money that she just had to take anything.
But first thing’s first. Don’t let that little antidote worry you- let’s start with the positives- THERE ARE JOBS OUT THERE! (yay!). During my course people (not on the course) would always be very encouraging, ‘Well, you’ll have to actually get a job when you finish. If you can.’ ‘There’s just no jobs out there.’ ‘Oh, very risky, making a career change during the recession.’ Well, actually no, it isn’t risky. Especially concerning Primary School teachers. The birth rate is nearly shooting through the roof and there is dire need of more and more primary schools. Schools are moving from 1 to 3 form entrys and the demand for ‘new blood’ is higher than ever. From a financial point of view NQTs and even teachers in their 2nd year of teaching on around £23k a year are more attractive than a teacher who has worked their way up to £35k a year. With budgets so tight, it makes sense to employ fresher talent. With fresher ideas and fresher enthusiasm. But that still doesn’t mean you automatically get the first job you apply for just because you’re an NQT. I lost out on two jobs because the school just decided to go with someone with more experience. Below, I’ve tried to condense a few key tips in helping you get your first NQT post. Even if you hate teaching by the time you complete your PGCE, at least get your first year out the way so that you are officially a qualified teacher. Then the world if your oyster.
- Apply for everything: At first I was being quite fussy. I wanted a Catholic school, no EAL, in my local borough- or at least a maximum 15min car drive away. The thing is you can’t be fussy, waiting for that ‘perfect school.’ I did that with my placement school. I only wanted to work there. I loved the staff and the head teacher. I didn’t apply for other great jobs because I wanted that one school. I passed on countless opportunities. I went for the interview and didn’t get the job. If I had applied for other jobs, I would have had interview experience that would have helped me in my dream job or even gotten a job else where. Apply for any job that accepts NQTs (within reason). It’s all experience.
2. Sell yourself in your application: Us brits are terrible at this. We need to be more like the Americans, ‘I am THE best person for this job. You WANT to employ me.’ You do not have to be as big headed as that, but give the employers reason to call you for your interview. List your positives, what you can bring to the job, your strongest points and how your experience can be useful in the school.
3. Make each job application personal. Job applications are timely- they take forever! They are like mini essays and were the bane of my life during the course. (As if I didn’t have enough paper work as it was?!). But you need to make each one personal to the job you’re applying for. It’s honestly no good having a generic personal statement that you copy and paste to each job, Heads can tell. Put things personal to the school- if they have links to a football club mention how sporty you are. Impressed with their stage in the hall? tell them that. Mention what you liked about their OFSTED report. Make the Head realise that you’ve done your research. Also, if you are not getting interviews, there is obviously something not right about your application so work on changing a few things.
4. Do your research. In the interview they may ask you what you thought about their last OFSTED report or how you would continue the ethos of a school. If you’re not an Anglican but applying to an Anglican school, make sure you know a little bit of the religion. I didn’t do my research for a lesson observation. It was a school with 90% EAL so I made my lesson very simple. If I had done my research, I would have realised that the maths results were the highest in the country and the children were all maths geniuses….awkward times.
5. Invest in interview attire. During the christmas sales look for interview outfits. A smart dark grey or navy suit for males (black is just too sombre) and a nice suit or expensive trousers and blazers for the girls. Once the interviews start coming in from Febuary, you don’t want to be rushing around the shops for interview clothes. One man on my course had to rush to get a suit the night before his interview, to be faced with two other interviewees wearing the same suit the next day. You have to be comfortable in what you wear too. I am not really a suit person, so I wore a smart shift dress with a black blazer.
6. Plan your route. Make sure you know where you are going before the day. Have a practice run to the school. Sat Navs are not always reliable and turning up late to an interview is an instant failure. Also allow plenty of time, stress will be a major hinderance, so arrive extra early, it will give you valuable time to relax, go through interview questions and calm nerves.
DURING THE INTERVIEW:
* Pause and think before answering the question. When you are asked a question, don’t just answer straight away. I know it’s hard, especially when you’re nervous to just ramble on and want to answer as quickly as possible, but this can make you actually forget what the question was in the first place! Pausing before answering questions was the biggest tip I could give you. It allows you to compose yourself and shows that you are really thinking about the question.
* Talk/ give eye contact to everyone in the room. I’ve been to interviews with 7 people in the room (yes it was a Catholic school and one person was the priest and another was a nun). Make sure you give eye contact to everyone and answer questions to everyone in the room, not just the person who asked you the question.
* Always have a question at the end. They will ask you if you have any questions at the end. Make sure you do! It shows you have thought about the interview and you are interested in the school. My fail safe question was always ‘what support do you give to NQTs’.
* Be nice to the receptionist who signs you in. Head teachers are sometimes extremely close to the receptionists and will ask their opinions on the interviewees, a good impression on the receptionist will stand you in good stead.
* Let your personality shine through. No one wants a teacher who is as dull as dishwater. Make sure you are animated, enthusiastic and have lots of energy in the interview. Do not be negative about anything if you had the worst PGCE year every- do not say a bad word about it. Negativity is the worse thing to be during the interview.
* Talk positively about the school. Make sure you mention how much you like the school (even if you don’t).
* Thank the panel. At the end of the interview, make sure you shake everyone’s hands, thank them for their time and leave confidently.
Be yourself and GOOD LUCK!