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Contacting the school to request the application details is the first opportunity you have to market yourself and to make a lasting (and positive!) impression. Much of the following may seem obvious, but it is important. So remember:
Before completing the application form
Before you begin to complete the application form, try to ensure that you have at least the following information:
Go through this information carefully and ask yourself whether you would want to accept the post if you were offered it. Would it:
Completing the application form
Most schools and local authorities ask applicants to complete application forms rather than apply by CV and covering letter. Spending time on the application form, and carefully planning what you intend to include will pay off.
Carefully follow any guidance you are given, especially if you are applying to more than one school at a time.
Take a photocopy of the form and complete the photocopy first. Write clearly in black ink. The forms will be copied for each member of the interview panel, so make sure yours is legible.
Take a copy of your completed form in case you are called for interview. You will need to refresh your memory about the information you have given.
Do not submit your CV unless you are specifically asked to do so.
Always use an A4 envelope for your application to avoid folding it and, where possible, deliver it in person. If you have to send it through the post, include a stamped addressed postcard that can be returned to you as an acknowledgement that the school has received your application. Always keep to closing dates. If you want to apply but will miss the closing date, contact the school to find out if late applications will be accepted.
The applicant profile or person specification
The applicant profile/person specification describes the technical and personal skills, qualifications, knowledge and experience required of the postholder.
It is essential to read the applicant profile in detail so that you can match your application with what the employers are actually looking for. If you can't comfortably fit the applicant profile, you should think carefully about whether you want to apply for the job, as it is most likely that the profile will form the basis of the assessment criteria, both at the shortlisting stage and during the interview.
Points will be listed as either essential or desirable; you need to have all the essential ones, and as many of the desirable ones as possible.
Checklist for completing the supporting statement
Write a list of your unique selling points as they relate to the applicant profile and job description.
Draft your statement first, making sure you begin and end with impact.
Aim to convey a sense of your personality. Explain what attracted you to the job.
Fill the main body of the statement with your skills, experience and achievements, including information on hobbies, travel and voluntary work, always relating them to the applicant profile and job description.
Optimise the positive, but stay within the realms of reality! You may be asked to substantiate what you have written.
If possible, ask someone to check through your statement. They may spot errors or suggest improvements.
Firmly attach any supplementary sheets you need to include so that they don't get lost. That said, brevity is usually the key here and, if you aim for each sentence to convey a new point, you'll avoid aimless paragraphs and the need for extra sheets.
It is essential that you write a new supporting statement for each application you make. If you don't, your statement cannot directly relate to the applicant profile and job description. Also, make sure that you don't just borrow phrases from the job description. Use your own words, not the ones provided by the school.
The importance of unique selling points
A sorrowful cry from new teachers seeking work in areas of strong competition is that they have little chance of success when so many other teachers are going for the same jobs. If you find yourself feeling like this, think about your unique selling points and how they can help you to secure the post you want. What skills do you have that others don't? Always be positive about how ideal you are for the job.
How do you write a supporting statement? Without doubt, this is one of the trickiest parts of the application process. Elizabeth Holmes, author of ATLís publication Apply yourself!, offers the following advice.
That is, without doubt, the trickiest part of the application process. Filling in boxes on forms about past qualifications is a mere breeze compared with the sweat and tears often associated with having to sell yourself. Maybe itís a cultural thing!
That said, following these steps can take a good deal of the pain out of the process.
The worst thing you can do is to take ideas from someone elseís statement or from some of the examples itís possible to find online. I know it sounds tough, but the only way possible your statement is going to sell you is if it is written in your words and it matches, specifically, the person specification for a particular job. It is easy for headteachers and governors to spot statements that have been rehashed from examples when they are shortlisting; they lack energy and enthusiasm and invariably fail to connect specifically to what the school is actually searching for. If you write without relying on examples from other people or for mythical jobs, you have a far greater chance of getting your suitability for the job across.
This text is taken from page 13 of Elizabeth Holmesí book FAQs for NQTs: Practical advice and working solutions for newly qualified teachers. (2006) Routledge. Hardback ISBN: 0415367956; price £65 Paperback ISBN 0415367964 ; price £16.99.
Writing a covering letter
If your supporting statement has been well written, there will be no need to include any further information in the covering letter other than the points listed here. Avoid being ingratiating, and remember that brevity is vital!
Application forms usually have to be sent to the headteacher. Make sure you address the person as they address themselves on the school letterhead.
State your thanks for the application form.
State what you have included in your application, i.e. `Please find enclosed my completed application form for the post of... and a stamped addressed postcard for acknowledgement of receipt'.
End with the expectation of a reply, followed by `Yours sincerely'. Print your name as well as signing it, if there could be any doubt as to who is sending the letter.
Make sure your letter is headed with your full address, contact telephone number(s) and e-mail address (if you have one).
Applying by letter and CV
Occasionally, candidates are asked to apply for a post by letter and CV, particularly in the independent sector. It is a good idea to have an up-to-date CV ready anyway so that, if you are asked to submit one, you don't have to rush to prepare it.
Applying by letter and CV means that your covering letter has to be far more detailed than it would be if accompanying an application form. Most importantly, your letter must include a detailed supporting statement that relates directly to the applicant profile and job description.
You can submit a typed or handwritten letter. If your handwriting is neat, it might be a good idea to write your letter (using black ink), but there is no unshakeable rule to follow. Be sure to mention in the letter that your CV is enclosed, in case it becomes separated from the letter.
A basic CV formula
Always type your CV and print it on no more than two sheets of good quality paper. Avoid printing on both sides and make sure that the second page is numbered and carries a header (in smaller print) with your full name. There are several CV-writing programmes available, and there are often advertisements for CV-writing services in the press. However, the safest option is to produce your own CV that is tailored to the teaching profession. Make sure there are no gaps in your CV, as these will be spotted easily. If questioned about periods of unemployment or illness, simply explain how positive the experience was in terms of what you learned from adversity.
A CV should contain the following information:
Some people also include their date of birth.
Use your CV-writing time as an opportunity to get to know yourself. Be conscious of your experiences and clarify in your mind what each one has taught you. Doubtless, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the breadth of skills you have accumulated!
Applying to a pool
Some LAs run a 'pool' service whereby first-time applicants (usually for primary posts) apply to the pool rather than individual schools. This means that applications join a pool of new teachers that schools can draw from; being accepted into a pool in an LA does not necessarily mean that you will get a job in the area, but it does mean your pool application will be forwarded to a school as an when it has a vacancy.
If you are applying to a pool, there will be a specific application form to complete, which is designed to elicit information about your education, training, experiences, skills and achievements as well as preferences for the area in which you would like to teach, type of school and age group.
After being accepted into the pool, those who are allocating posts to applicants will endeavour to match preferences with needs. You are not obliged to accept the offer of a post as a result of a pool application ≠ although your reasons for refusal should be well thought through.
Points to remember when applying to a pool:
Interviews for pools usually take place over two or three days. Your slot will be about 20 minutes during which you will be asked a variety of questions and be given an opportunity to discuss your portfolio.
Likely questions include:
The panel on pool interviews usually consists of one or two local headteachers as well as LA staff (advisors/inspectors or personnel staff).
Making speculative applications
It is not always necessary to wait for a post to be advertised before making an application. Speculative approaches can be just as successful if they happen to arrive at just the right time! When making a speculative application to a particular school, remember the following:
Choosing your referees
Think carefully about your choice of referees. People you choose must be appropriate to teaching, and your contact must be recent. If you can only muster up a teacher from your distant past, you'll immediately raise the suspicions of your prospective employers!
Your referees must also be in a position to match your qualities to the job in question, so you'd be wise to provide them with copies of the job description and applicant profile as well as your application before they write their statements.
Good choices of referee would be your tutor from your initial teacher training institution or, if you are a prospective returnee, your most recent headteacher. If you're applying to a denominational school, it would be wise to include a member of the appropriate clergy. You must gain each potential referee's permission before including his/her details on an application form.
Preparing your portfolio
Portfolios are gaining such importance now that it is becoming essential for applicants to keep one up-to-date as a professional demonstration of past work, skills and excellence. Just a few years ago, portfolios were not really used very much, but this is rapidly changing and they've now become important accessories to applications, especially in the primary and special needs sectors.
There's no doubt that collecting together the best examples of your work gives a real boost to confidence levels. By highlighting your successes, you offer interviewers an extremely positive focus for questioning as well as allowing your skills to speak for themselves!
The ideal size for your portfolio folder is A3, so that it's big enough to hold relatively large examples of pupils' work as well as other documents relating to planning. Make sure it looks presentable and is well labelled. Most good stationers and art suppliers stock selections of portfolio folders. Choose a folder without inner plastic pockets for ease of retrieval during the interview ≠ the last thing you want is to be fumbling with stubborn pockets which are reluctant to relinquish their contents. Place the contents of your folder in the order you want to retrieve each item.
What to include in your portfolio:
Unless you're applying for a job very early into your training, you'll have material you can include in a portfolio, but be selective. Although it's advisable to include items that reflect your excellence, it can also be positive to include something that demonstrates your ability to learn from your experiences, especially if you're a newly-qualified teacher. Many interviews include questions on how well candidates have bounced back from classroom `disasters', which reveal your skills as a reflective practitioner.
When preparing for an interview, take anything out of your portfolio that isn't pertinent to the job specification, so that you'll be able to make use of everything.