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Not got a job yet for September? Don’t panic!

I can see that on Twitter lately, there’s a lot of posts from almost hysterical and panicking new teachers nearing the end of their training course who have not yet got a job for September.

If you're just finishing a teacher training course and haven't got a job yet, let me tell you from experience, it's still early days and definitely not the end of the world.

Though many teachers will have indicated their intentions earlier, most teachers moving schools or retiring will be leaving at the end of this term. From the end of May, schools will know for sure who they will need in September. In spite of COVID making many people more risk averse than ever this year, there will still be a rush of job opportunities in the coming weeks.

As a former head teacher, I was let down on two occasions by people who changed their minds about coming to teach in Hackney - at the very last minute! Twice I had to appoint a new teacher within a few days of starting the new term in September. It wasn't ideal for anyone, but it happens. So don't despair, keep applying and keep trying.

The first trick is to spread your net as wide as you can and register with all the reputable teaching agencies in your region as well as customising your search.

Many agencies will have a focus on London because that's where the greatest concentration of schools is. Turnover is higher in the capital too, providing more opportunities for those willing and able to cope with the extra excitement and cost of living.

Most agencies have branches across the country, however, so decide now if you are prepared to move. I did for my first job – from north-west Kent to the north of the capital and I never went back.

If you are not yet on Twitter, get a profile. Not only is it great for teachers with lots of advice and support, but agencies and schools tweet jobs there.

Make sure your cover letter, CV and supporting statement is well prepared and polished too – let someone who can be frank with you take a look and make suggestions to improve it. At this stage, you are selling yourself so you need to make sure your best attributes stand out.

Here are some ideas of what to promote:

  • Your energy, enthusiasm and commitment to teaching. Say why you'd love to teach at this particular school;

  • Your specialism and particular teaching strengths with an example from your school placement. For example, talk about how brilliant you were at motivating disaffected year 6 boys to write about their favourite toy;

  • Your aptitudes and skills with another example from teaching practice, for example, how you played guitar in assembly or helped coach the netball team.

Try not to panic yourself into taking a job that isn't right for you:

  • Make sure you go through due process of visiting a school and getting a feel for the ethos and atmosphere;

  • Judge the quality of relationships between teachers and pupils, pupils and pupils, and teachers and teachers. Do they look like they enjoy each other's company and have fun teaching and learning?

  • Assess the support you can expect as a newly-qualified teacher (now called Early Careers Teachers - ECTs). Can you meet your ECT induction mentor?

  • Who else can you go to for advice and support? Has staff turnover been an issue, especially with ECTs? Don't be afraid to ask.

  • When you prepare for interview at an agency or especially at a school, make sure you have rehearsed the answers to questions you can anticipate, such as, "Give us an example of a successful episode during your teaching training," or, "Give us an example of how you overcame a challenge during your final teaching practice."

As Martine Di Paola's from Prospero Teaching says: "NQTs must try to highlight any relevant experience they have working with children and young people, voluntary or otherwise. Something like working at a summer camp or volunteering at a local scout group or youth club are much more impressive to head teachers than a part-time job in an unrelated area such as retail.

If you do have limited experience, it's about drawing out the transferable skills to teaching, for example, dealing with an angry customer in retail and remaining calm, managing behaviour and resolving conflict.

Your school placements will also provide good examples, but it's important to show you have a wider range of experience, so schools can really picture how you will fit into the school ethos and environment."

Finally – don't despair, stay positive, keep trying and eventually you will get that dream teaching job.

Good luck.

Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and head teacher in London for over 20 years and then for over a decade with the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures and writes on professional values in teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk.

His new book: ‘Becoming a teacher – the legal, ethical and moral implications of entering society’s most fundamental profession’ will be published by Crown House Publishing this summer and can be ordered here.

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