Are you poised to begin your teaching career in September? If you are, choosing the right school to work in is important. Your choice of school will shape your NQT experience. It may also shape your entire teaching career.
You can do a lot to ensure that you make a good choice of school. You can think about locations where you would like to work. You can think about whether you want to work in a school that is an academy or part of an academy chain. However, there are other things to think about before you make your decision. Consider the following as you search for your first post in teaching.
Are you researching the recent history of interesting schools? What can you find out about schools at which you think you might like to work?
Do the schools have a good Ofsted record, for example? Is a particular school that has attracted your interest an outstanding school?
How well is the school doing in the curriculum areas that matter to you? Reading recent Ofsted reports will help you to find answers to these questions.
Look for more information than this. Has the school had a new headteacher recently? Has the governing body changed much over the last year or so? Has the school recently become an academy?
Use the answers to these questions to work out how the school is developing and how much change staff are being asked to deal with.
Reputation is defined as what people say about you when you are not there. Use the internet to help you to find out what people are saying about any school you are considering.
Type the school’s name into a search engine and see what comes up. What is being said about the school in the local press? Does the school’s name figure in discussions on online forums and on the various social media platforms?
Check what is being said. Parents often discuss schools online. They say why they have chosen, or rejected, a school. They offer advice to other parents about the school which their children attend. Some parents may even blog about their children’s schools.
Of course, parents and others who comment are expressing opinions and reporting their perceptions. However, it is always interesting to be aware of a school’s reputation with parents and others who are not part of the education establishment. Thus, forum discussions, reviews, blogs, open letters to the press and other sources of information about a school are always of interest.
Whatever people are saying about a school – does it match what the school says about itself via its website, its prospectus and other documents? It is worth finding out.
When you are considering if you would like to work in a school, there is nothing quite like talking to someone who already works there to help you to find out how the school operates.
If you know someone who teaches at a school where you think you might like to start your teaching career, ask him or her what it is like to work there. Ask about how things are done in school and make a point of asking for facts. Ask how the pastoral system works, how many students are in the 6th form, how the school keeps in touch with parents and so on.
Aim to gather information rather than asking for opinions. Definitely avoid asking if you should apply for a job in the school. That is a decision for you to make.
Support for new teachers
Of course, one of the things you really want to know about any school where you might start your teaching career is how well it supports its NQTs.
Check the information you have gathered about schools so far to see if the NQT support programme is mentioned. Is there a well-developed NQT mentoring scheme?
Are any of the schools you are considering models of excellence as far as NQT support is concerned? Which schools seem interested in encouraging NQTs to apply for posts?
Review all the evidence and make a judgement about the quality of support each of the schools you are reviewing appears to offer.
If you plan to apply for posts in several schools, compare the NQT programmes offered by each school that you investigate. This will help you to identify good practice in NQT support as well as helping you to decide which schools to shortlist in your search for your first post.
Your own preferences
As you learn more about a number of different schools you will automatically form opinions about the type of schools in which you would like to work. You will be identifying approaches to teaching and learning and to organisational management that appeal to you. You will also be making judgements about the schools where you would prefer not to work.
Allow yourself to become aware of your preferences. However, remember that, at this stage in your teaching career, before you have obtained your first appointment, you do not have a great deal of evidence on which to base your judgements. Experience could change your views.
Therefore, for the moment, accept that you are developing preferences, but do not decide that you would prefer not to work in a school that operates in a particular way just yet.
You are now in a position to list individual schools where you think you would like to start your teaching career.
Check if those schools are hiring. Are they looking for NQTs? Are they looking for NQTs who teach your subject? If they are, you are ready to make your application. If not, keep looking. There is still plenty of time for you to be appointed to your first teaching post before the autumn term begins.
Former teacher, Margaret Adams, is the author of Marketing for School Leaders and Work-Life Balance: A practical guide for teachers.