Friday, 30 May 2014

"Please just give me a job!" Part 1: Choosing the right school

Job hunting was a big deal for me; I get extremely anxious and put a lot of pressure on myself. I started looking for jobs for September in January - that may seem early but I wanted to 'get it out of the way' (so to speak) so I could concentrate on my university work. (Some of my friends are still finding jobs now, though (May) - remember a school only requires half a term's notice so jobs could be available for September right up until June!) Being part of a university course of around 40 people also looking for jobs turned into what seemed like a competition - the more "MISS XXX GOT A JOB!" statuses that went up on Facebook, the more pressure I felt to get one myself. However, I knew this wasn't a process to be rushed - I thought it important to find the right school for me.

I learnt (or 'learned' for those outside the UK!) a lot along the way when job searching that I hope will benefit others soon to be in the same position. I am also surrounded by relatives and friends that are part of the exciting world that is teaching: head teachers, deputy head teachers, governors etc. - so a lot of this advice comes from them!

How to find the right school for you

(Please note that a lot of this will probably only be applicable for primary school teachers.)

When choosing schools to visit, ask yourself the following questions (all of which can most likely be answered by browsing the school's website - it is important to check this before  you visit. A lot of your questions will be answered there - you may decide it's not the school for you and therefore avoid wasting your own, and the school's, time by arranging a look around):

Do I want to work in a primary, infant or junior school?
Obviously this depends on your preferred Key Stage, and whether or not you'd like to try different ages after your first year.

Do I prefer open or closed plan?
I had two teaching practices in open planned schools and realised it definitely wasn't for me - mostly due to noise levels.

Do I want to work in a village school or a town/city school?
Personal preference - I've taught in both and found they had very different atmospheres.

What was the school's last Ofsted result?
Unless it's a failing school, I don't think this matters. I've done some intense research on Ofsted, and realised that if a school receives a Grade 3, it does not mean the teaching is poor. (A lot of Ofsted's results are based on data - for example, if a school has a high percentage of SEN, the data is unlikely to be as good as a school with a lower percentage of SEN. That doesn't mean the teaching is any worse though - in fact, the teaching could be much better, but you are working with a very different set of children. However, this is another story completely...) Just as 'outstanding schools' won't be the only ones looking for 'outstanding' teachers - schools considered 'requires improvement' will want 'outstanding' teachers to help them to improve (supposing they actually do need improving. Who knows these days). As far as I am aware, failing schools (schools receiving a Grade 4) are not allowed to hire NQTs - however, when I was searching for a job, I found a failing school that were advertising specifically for NQTs. Hmm...

Do I want to work in a small or big school?
In a one form entry school, there is a lot more independent planning, meaning a huge work load for an NQT. I know that many one form entry schools plan in teams (e.g. upper KS2, lower KS2 etc.) but there is still only a limited amount of team planning that can go on. However, if you are a conscientious and independent worker, this might work better for you than working in a three form entry school and having to use everyone else's plans.

What facilities does the school have?
An ICT suite? A piano? A swimming pool? Obviously this is personal choice - if you are a music specialist, you might be put off working in a school if it doesn't have a dedicated music room or sufficient music equipment.

What is the school's reputation?
Luckily, I teach locally, so I knew what the general opinion of the school was. This is clearly circumstantial - if you are applying to a school a fair distance away, you are unlikely to be able to find this out. It does help though - I've known a school to have a stellar website (which is obviously your only port of call when considering the quality of a school if you don't live nearby) only to find out that the local teachers and parents regularly gossiped about the head teacher who had a less than respectable history as a school leader!

Do I want to work in a mainstream school, an academy or a free school?
There might be another type now. There's so many these days I can't keep up. I chose a mainstream school, purely because I don't agree with the current government's idealistic view of academies.

Do I want to work in a mixed year group?
Until I started training, I was completely unaware that some schools have mixed years of 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6,  or sometimes even 2/3, 4/5 etc. I've done two placements in mixed year groups, and again, found it didn't quite work for me.

What are the after school clubs?
You might find you can offer something that the school doesn't already, e.g. a football club.

Does the school match my values?
I never really understood what people meant by this when they were telling me what to consider - "make sure that school matches your values when you look around it!" - until the day I looked around a school and noticed a spelling mistake on every single copy of the 'Golden Rules', affixed onto any available wall space. The misused apostrophe on the whiteboard of the Year 6 classroom didn't exactly help the situation. Needless to say, I didn't apply to that school.

Okay, so you've looked at the school's website, everything seems suited to you, so you should apply now, right? Wrong - visit the school. If at all possible, visit during the daytime, to see the school in action. My friend is moving over summer, so had to look for a job that was an hour away from her current location - she still managed to organise a visit. I know it can be difficult, but it is so important - from the school's side, as well. Each time I went to interview (three times), the head teacher remembered me from the visit - it creates the impression that you actually want to work at their school, and not that you just want a job at any school (which might well be the case, but don't let them know that). A head teacher that I know said she could remember from the applications who had visited the school and who hadn't, and that unless they had a viable reason not to, it already tainted her opinion of the candidates who hadn't bothered to arrange a look around the school. If visiting the school really isn't a feasible option, ask if you can organise a phone call with the head teacher (another friend did this - the head was really impressed!) to ask them questions about the school.

Visiting the school

When you go for your school visit, you don't need to dress smartly - but don't go too casual. They will remember you if you stand out for the wrong reasons! During most of my school visits (I visited 10 schools, applied to five and got interviews for all five - little pat on the back there), the head teacher took the time to show me round - or, if they weren't available, the deputy head took us round instead. However, on a couple of occasions, the secretary gave me the tour - I didn't really like this. I know head teachers are very busy, but as the head of my current school said on my visit, he felt it was important to meet the prospective candidates and really get to know the people who might be working at his school; he believed recruitment was very important. Although the school visit was at the end of the day, we were shown round by both the head and the deputy head for about 45 minutes, and were then taken into the head's office so they could both answer any questions we had. I held a lot more respect for this school (and am working there now - yay!) than the schools that presented me with a five minute whip-round with the secretary - I felt like I was a burden then. It is important that the schools impress you as well, not just the other way round!

You may be shown round on your own, or in a group. It is important to ask questions and show interest - especially if you're in a group. In my successful interview, my head told me that he remembered me from my visit for the questions I asked! (Now I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing?!) As you are shown round the school, questions will come to you naturally, but here are a few in case you're stuck:

Do you use a particular phonics scheme?
How are the TAs allocated?
How many assemblies do you have a week?
Do you have any specialist teachers? (Usually music or PE  that take the class whilst you have PPA)
Do you stream for the core subjects?
Those are a few general questions, but it will differ for every school.

I hope you found this useful! My next post will be about applying to schools (another little brag here: I got interviews from all five of my applications and was told by one school that I had the best application form out of all 26 they'd received, so hopefully I'll have a few helpful things to share!).

View "Please just give me a job!" Part 2: The application form here: 

View "Please just give me a job!" Part 3: The interview here:

Find me on Twitter at @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)


  1. I'm starting a PGCE in September and reading your blog is making me excited but also slightly terrified!

    1. Ooh good luck! I am still equal amounts of excited and terrified the night before I teach! Haha

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I've found it really helpful!

  3. Hi,

    Your blog was excellent to read and made me feel better about the application process. I have left job hunting till quite late as wanted to focus on placement, which I have just finished. I am in a little state of panic as not much time left to find a job but I am hopeful!

    thanks a bunch

  4. This was a great read and I'll be trawling through your blog to see what else I can find. I've got my first school visit tomorrow and two interviews (hopefully) next week so fingers crossed.