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Applying for Your First Teaching Job

May 31st 2024

As the May deadline for teachers looking to move on has passed, now is the time for ECTs to look at securing their first teaching position.

No-one ever forgets their first class and putting into practice all the experience and theory of teaching training is an exciting time. Some peers will have secured a job early on but for many, now is the time to send off the letters of application and hope for the best.

There are a number of steps to the process of gaining employment and we have broken it down for you along with our tips for success from an experienced headteacher who has supported many teachers in their career paths.

The Letter

The most important thing is demonstrating a commitment to the profession and showing that you have sought direct experience in a school. Above what you have done as part of your teaching degree course, or your PGCE, what have you done to find out about what being a teacher is all about? Are you volunteering in a school regularly?

Be clear about why you want to be a teacher and try to include positive experiences from your own education. Try and articulate a clear philosophy.

Stick to the person specification and guidance from the school as what different schools want varies.

Make sure that you tailor the letter for that specific school. Headteachers want to know why you want to work at their school! If you are changing a generic letter, make sure that you change the name of the school (you wouldn’t believe how often this gets overlooked)! Look at the school’s website and explain what drew you to apply and refer to specific things that you like.

Don’t just apply for all jobs. Think about the school, visit the school if you can and make sure it is right for you!

The Lesson Observation

Plan this really carefully and think about exactly what you are going to say, especially the questions you plan to ask. Be really well prepared and make sure that your presentation or learning resources are clear and that you rehearse the lesson. Make sure that all resources (as much as possible) are on the tables ready for when pupils may need them – you don’t want the pace of learning to slow because of giving out books, worksheets or stationery.

Don’t try and teach too much in the lesson. Make sure you are clear about the learning objective and how this is building on what pupils already know. The most effective lessons will start with checking pupils’ prior knowledge and the retrieval of the most important knowledge. Make sure that you explain the new learning clearly and in small steps so that all pupils understand and be ready to adapt your teaching for the varying needs of pupils, including those with SEND and the most able pupils.

The Interview

To try and keep up to date with the most important and latest government and Ofsted guidance.

Be clear about how you are going to answer some likely questions – Why did you apply for this job? How would you deal with challenging behaviour? How would you teach … maths, English, etc? How would you support pupils with SEND? How would you fit into the team at…? Tell us about yourself  and, how do you think the experiences you have had so far have prepared you for this role? For all answers, listen to the question very carefully, take your time and think about the 2 or 3 key points you want to make. Make them and stop – don’t waffle or go on too long or try to say too much!

You must also get across how keen you are to learn from other, more experienced colleagues. Get across your knowledge and philosophy but don’t come across as knowing it all – for some things, especially managing pupils’ behaviour and learning how to support pupils with additional needs you will need the guidance and support of more experienced colleagues. Above all, be enthusiastic and get across why you want to work in that particular school.

If at all possible, visit the school before application and certainly before interview! This is important, especially in some schools.

We wish you the best of luck in this first stage of your career.