The personal statement within your application form can be of any length, but you are often offered one side of A4 with space for another, which immediately indicates that you are expected to write a great tome of a thousand words, and that fellow candidates will do so also.
Whilst your qualifications and experience get you through the door, the personal statement is an important opportunity for you to tell the decision maker who you are and exactly why you fit that role.
Include your research
Firstly, do the research about the school. Use their career site or webpage to get to know their values and priorities. This will allow you to include in your statement exactly why you’re right for that school. Don’t be afraid to refer to their mission statement or Ofsted report.
Yes, you do need to personalise your statement every time you apply to a different teaching job.
Fit the specifications
Relate your experience to their job specifications, and give examples. E.g. if they are looking for ‘ability to engage successfully with parents’, your statement must show how you meet that requirement, such as: ‘I maintain an open-door policy for parents after teaching hours and have found that two-way conversation results in a more joined-up approach to learning and behaviour between school and home.’ This will then form the basis of your interview questions so be ready with the actual example of a child you have supported this way.
Keep it concise
Don’t be tempted to write War and Peace. A 400-word statement that gives focussed information is more powerful than a 1,000-word demonstration of your supercalifragilistic literary powers. That said, use a varied vocabulary – after all, a teacher should be able to find alternative words for ‘enthusiastic’.
As a teacher (of any subject) your literacy is expected to be high so there should be no spelling or grammar errors. Organise it into logical paragraphs and get someone else to spell-check it manually. There should certainly not be any evidence that you have cut and pasted from an application for another school. Errors such as this are a quick way for a Head to cut down their pile of applicants.
Talk about your subject
Enthuse about your subject or specialism. If you enjoy it, say why. This is critical in leadership roles where you will be responsible in translating the curriculum into a real learning programme.
Focus on what you have learnt
Explain what you have learned from the different schools you have worked in but avoid criticising anyone, no matter how tempting it may be!
Highlight your transferable schools
Include transferable skills from inside and outside of the classroom. If you have come from another industry, don’t be afraid to say so. Your recent and relevant training in technology or a trade is in fact of great benefit to schools so explain what you think you bring to the table.
Mention your future plans
Include your long term plans – much of what a school is looking for includes the person you are going to become.
Be selective with your hobbies
Don’t bother telling them that you love socialising. If you want to include hobbies, relate each to the value it portrays, be it health, papercraft, music, performance or family or community.
If you aren’t sure what skills could be of use to the school, your recruitment consultant can help.
Perfected your personal statement? Check out our CV tips to ensure your application is ready to go!
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.