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Primary Education News
News Doing your research: how to prepare for a new teaching job
Our expert panel suggests ways to investigate your perfect role and be one step ahead of the interviewer
The Guardian Teacher Network recently hosted a live online school careers clinic. Our panel was on hand to offer advice from job application to preparing for your interview. Here are some of the highlights.
Peter Lee @pete___lee, assistant vice principal, Q3 Academy, Birmingham
Volunteering and youth work can make your job application stronger: Volunteer in a school, get involved in a community action project through university, coaching a sport or get involved in another young group such as the Scout movement, work with children during your holidays - this will show the experience you have on your job application.
Do as much reading and research about the school as you can: Visit during the day and speak to staff. See if you can sit in the staff room. Arrive early and sit in reception. Make sure you've read the latest Ofsted report - it will tell you a lot about the school strengths and weaknesses.
Jill Berry @jillberry102, former headteacher, education consultant
Go through the job description with a fine tooth comb: A few thoughts from me about preparing for interview. I always used to go through the job details with a fine tooth comb and think what I might ask if I were on the interview panel. My experience was that if you do this thoroughly often you can anticipate some of the question areas, and when these come up in the interview it helps you to feel more confident/prepared. Panels usually want to give you the opportunity to show what you know/what you're like - they are on your side and not trying to catch you out/trip you up.
Think about the generic skills you have and what elements of a teaching role they will be relevant to. In terms of late returners/those switching professional areas, I have always felt that parenting gives you crucial skills which will be invaluable in the classroom. Don't be afraid to refer to these skills.
Be persistent when asking for feedback: If you find that you are attending lots of interviews but not getting the job, don't start to doubt yourself or lose confidence - dust yourself off, cope with the disappointment and move on - it can be gruelling but keep at it.
Asking for feedback is crucial. You deserve constructive, positive and fair feedback to help you prepare for the future. Perhaps request a more detailed follow up phone conversation a few days after the interview, if they are unwilling to accommodate a face to face chat and don't want to put their reasons in writing. Stress (politely) that you spent a considerable amount of time on the application and preparing for interview and you want to learn as much as possible from the experience for future reference. Every unsuccessful candidate is a potential ambassador for a school and they should want candidates, even if unsuccessful and disappointed, to be out in the community saying positive things about how they were treated.
Chris Hildrew @chrishildrew, deputy headteacher and media studies teacher, Chew Valley School near Bristol
Investigate broad education issues before your interview: There are so many current education issues to talk about - the problem is that most of them are quite contentious and political. You don't want to set out on an ideological rant when you don't know the views of the panel. The balance between 'core' skills like literacy and numeracy and the 'wider' education in terms of social skills, personal health and well-being might be a good broad issue to discuss, rather than getting into a discussion about academies or performance pay or the national curriculum.
Be upfront about gaps on your CV: Explain and be clear about breaks on your CV - 'career break to travel' or 'three years spent bringing up my family' are clear and helpful and won't count against you but gaps will be highlighted and need an explanation at the interview.
The big questions - be prepared to be asked about good or bad teaching experiences: Staple PGCE interview questions range from "reflect on your own education" and "reflect on how that's influenced your choice to go into teaching" to "reflect on good or bad teaching that you've experienced and why that teaching was good or bad". Be prepared to be given a prop (a poem for example) and be asked to think about what you would do with a class and what it could [the prop] teach them. Also, schools will expect an on the spot decision but you've got the whole day to think about it. The interview day is genuinely as much about you choosing the school as the school choosing you. If you aren't sure then you need to make this clear to the panel in the interview. The final question is almost always "if I offered you the job would you accept it?" or "are you still a firm candidate for the post?" - make sure if you say yes you mean yes.
Paul K Ainsworth @pkainsworth, acting principal Belvoir High School, Bottesford, Leicestershire
Ask for feedback even when supply teaching: As a supply teacher try to build relationships with the staff in that particular school. Schools will often use a small pool of supply staff and if you are being used regularly ask the head of department or continued professional development co-ordinator if they would be prepared to observe a lesson and then feedback tips on improvement. Try to teach lessons rather than just supervising worksheet or textbook lessons - this will help to develop practice.
References don't have to be from the head: If you're finding it difficult to get a reference from a headteacher (they may have moved on for example) you can always ask a member of the senior leadership team to confirm that there were no allegations against you and didn't leave under a cloud.
Emma Drury @GuardianTeach, senior editor, Guardian Teacher Network
Know the age range you'll be teaching when preparing an interview lesson: What appeals to year one is different to what appeals to year 6. Maybe choose your favourite book, you'll know it well and will be more enthusiastic when presenting it.