Going for a role in education? Your personal statement means more than you think

September 10 2019 , 0 Comments

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What are the most common weakness on teaching applications? We interviewed Alan Brown, Head teacher, and Raj Unsworth, chair of a multi academy trust and specialist advisor to @headsroundtable for the complete run-down on what candidates need to include.

The personal statement (or statement of suitability) is worryingly overlooked. As a point of fact, schools are currently giving this area of your application great focus because it relates so closely to the regulation they have to meet on ‘child safeguarding and schools’.  Incredibly, some candidates for school roles actually overlook this area totally and write just a few words.

Here are some strategies to help you write a personal statement that brings your application to life.


The personal approach

“Our application process involves candidates writing a personal statement which is their chance to state their suitability for the role. This is a crucial part of the process. People are often too humble or don’t truly appreciate how important it is for them to demonstrate their suitability. We want this statement to stand out. This is about what the candidate has done, not what their previous school has done. Their role in those achievements must be clear.” Said Alan Brown, head teacher at Oldfield Primary School. “A generic statement will not do; I need to be able to see that candidates have looked into our context carefully and have looked at our website and at Ofsted reports. Often the personal statement/statement of suitability just doesn’t stand out. I like to see more on a candidate’s philosophy of teaching and a really proactive approach in their statements.”


Take the tour first

Alan’s school has a policy of making a great effort when candidates pre-visit as it is so critical to get an in-depth response from the candidate. “I offer a chance for potential candidates to have a walk around the school. Candidates can learn so much about a school on a visit like that. I explain our values, our culture and the ethos of the school. This helps potential candidates to really consider whether they are suitable for our school and whether the school is suitable for them. It also helps the candidates to make sure their applications are as closely matched to what we are seeking as possible.”

Alan advises that teachers should focus on the school’s philosophies to find the one that suits you. “Schools differ quite a bit now in their philosophies, so teachers need to find a school that suits them. I always stress to candidates that they need to think about our school and about their own philosophy and what they can bring to our school.”


State the obvious

“Last year, I wanted someone with capacity for leadership. This was very clear on the job specification and description. We wanted to develop someone in the role. But of the 30 applications we had, we moved 20 to one side very quickly because they did not address that capacity. The application has to be personal and linked to what the school actually wants. You are potentially joining an existing team and if your application is not specific to the needs of the school you may be throwing away your opportunity to work there.”


How to stand out from the crowd

“The most efficient way of making sure you don’t overlook any important points is to use the structure of the job specification for your statement. That way you won’t miss anything important. Schools need to see that you have carefully matched your skills and experience to what they are asking for in the job specification. “I want to come and work in your school” must come through strongly in your application.”


What to research

Raj Unsworth, chair of a multi academy trust and specialist advisor to @headsroundtable, says that research is key: “I strongly recommend that potential candidates visit any school they are considering applying to. If that is not possible, at least have a conversation on the phone with the head teacher. It is so important for the match between candidate and school to be right. It has to work for both parties. Making this effort before the shortlisting stage will be noticed.

“Research the school. Read Ofsted reports, look at the website, understand how the school is governed, who the chair is, and where the school needs to go to improve. Only then can you know whether you are in a position to help the school to move forwards.”

Social media can help at this stage too. “It is also worth doing your research on social media, especially Twitter,” Raj suggests. “Does the school and/or head teacher have an account and if so, how is it used? Are you comfortable with how social media is used? Does it fit your personal values? It is important that the school has a philosophy you can support and work within so do your background checks well!

“When completing the application, make sure you address the person specification and teaching job specification, point by point in your statement of suitability, you need to do this so that whoever reads your application can see easily how appropriate you are for the role. You need to tick as many essential and desirable boxes as possible.”


Paul Howells is the CEO of the Eteach group. Paul is an ex-PE teacher who started the first London supply teacher agency in 1990 from a fax machine in his garage. Today, Eteach.com and FEjobs.com give candidates the most advanced career management tools for education professionals to connect directly with schools for free from their mobiles. 

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