As you near the end of your studies, you’ll be looking for your first teaching job with, no doubt, a mix of enthusiasm and anxiety.
But if you’ve already completed a few placements, you’ll know how different one school or college can be from the next. To get off to a flying start on a long and rewarding career, you need to find the school that’s the right fit for you.
There is a lot of great generic advice online like this blog from Recruiter.com for how new graduates can research and find a suitable workplace, so we’ve adapted it here for newly qualified teachers (NQTs).
Welcome to the teaching job market…!
What makes a school a good place to work?
You probably chose teaching as a career due to the rewards of helping kids and young people learn, and your passion for your subject. But in order to flourish as a teacher, you need to be in an environment where you feel valued and nurtured.
- Opportunities for growth
Although you’ll be starting at the bottom, you don’t want to stay there forever! You want a school that offers you a path to advancement, so you don’t have to change workplaces just to get ahead.
This could be opportunities for promotion, or chances to make sideways moves to broaden your experience and your skillset.
- A positive culture
To feel happy and appreciated in your job, you need a school or college that prioritises staff development and resonates with your own personal values. So, when researching potential places to work, think long and hard about the qualities of each.
Is its management transparent and communicative? What will the work/ life balance be? Is the school well embedded in its community?
A school whose values align with your own will be a place where you’ll love to teach. And that means you’ll stay for the long term.
What questions should I ask at interview?
The interview should be a two-way process. Sure, the school wants to find out if you’re the right person for the job. But it’s also your best opportunity to discover if the school suits your career aspirations.
Asking the right questions also lets the school know that you’re serious about working there for the long term.
- Teacher turnover rates
A high turnover rate may indicate a negative environment with limited opportunities for teachers. It can also suggest a disconnect between management and junior teaching staff.
Ask your interviewers for data about the turnover rate – and if it’s more than 20% every year with no obvious explanation, proceed with caution.
- Training, mentoring and coaching
After your teaching degree, you may be eager to stop studying and start teaching, but learning should be lifelong. Your school should be offering you training to keep abreast of new developments in education and improve your professional skills and knowledge.
Mentoring and coaching can help you overcome the inevitable hurdles you’ll encounter as an NQT, keeping you happy in the profession.
- Benefits and perks
If you’re used to living on baked beans as a student, you might well be keen just to start earning a proper salary. But find out what else your employer is offering, such as a pension.
Choose your words wisely, as you don’t want to sound like you’re only in it for the perks!
How can I tell if a school or college has a good workplace culture?
It’s hard to tell what a workplace will truly be like until you’re embedded in it. But there are a few steps you can take before accepting a job offer.
- Research its online presence
A decent school will have dedicated career page or site detailing the benefits of working there. Some schools are active on social media, welcoming new teachers and congratulating those who’ve been promoted which indicates a school that values staff wellbeing and invests in its employees.
Existing staff are, of course, the real experts on the culture of their school. Take the initiative and ask one if you could meet them for coffee, or have a chat over the phone.
If they’re not interviewing you, they’re more likely to give a warts-and-all account of what it’s really like to work at that particular school.
- Interview at several schools
Interviews may seem like an ordeal, but they’re your best opportunity to compare schools.
If you do several interviews, you not only increase your chances of landing a position, but also get insights into the cultures at different schools. You can then see which one matches your working style.
Plus, you’ll gain vital interview experience and impress potential employers with your knowledge of the sector.
Remember – good teachers are in high demand, so you’re in a strong position. You owe it your future pupils, your potential employer and above all yourself to make your first move a wise one.
Happy job hunting!