It’s important to make an excellent first impression if you want to secure that interview, and time spent on a well-thought-out application is never wasted.
Choosing the right course for you
Whichever route into teaching you choose, make sure it’s the right one for you. As well as ensuring you meet the minimum requirements to apply, you should be certain you are applying for the age group and subject that suits you. Also, take geographical location into account when applying as you don’t want to spend hours travelling, particularly if you are relying on public transport. See more tips on choosing the right course provider for you.
It’s not an insurmountable obstacle if you haven’t had any experience of working with children. You can instead highlight any employment where you believe you have gained transferable skills which could be used in a classroom, such as communication, organisation and time management. You might have organised seminars or delivered training sessions, or you might have music qualifications that could be used in a primary setting or be an amateur astronomer that can offer an enrichment class.
School experience is not compulsory, but it may be a good idea to try to visit a school if only to confirm that you are making the right choice before you submit your application. If you are having difficulty finding a school to visit, you might find that schools offering School Direct courses are more welcoming to an enquiry. Due to the pandemic, some schools are not currently accepting non-essential visitors, so use the Department for Education’s Get School Experience service to find details of upcoming opportunities in your area.
Attending a Train to Teach event is also a good idea, as you can talk to training providers and ask them directly if they would host a visit. Remember they are there to recruit trainee teachers so may be more amenable to inviting you into their school.
The personal statement
The personal statement is your shop window. You will be asked to focus on why you have decided to train to teach and why you are suited to your chosen age group or subject. You can also talk about any relevant work experience you have had, what you learned or observed and how you might apply this to your own teaching practice.
Remember to tailor your statement to either the phase or the subject you are wanting to teach. Trying to adapt it to cover both primary and secondary, or two different subjects, is not advised.
Your personal statement is also an opportunity to acknowledge any gaps in your subject knowledge that you think you might need to plug. Not every provider will automatically consider a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course when reading an application, particularly if it’s for an application for something that is outside of your degree discipline. Take this opportunity to suggest that you would be happy to undertake a SKE course to enhance your existing knowledge ahead of starting your teacher training course. This shows a commitment to your own professional development.
You may wish to demonstrate your awareness of the hard work and commitment required to undertake teaching as a career but also demonstrate how excited you are to start your journey.
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to avoid spelling mistakes. Make sure to run it through a spell check before copying it into your application, as demonstrating good communication skills is vital. Read more tips on your personal statement.
And finally, we turn to references. Who you pick is really important. You will need two references. One could be a university or academic tutor and the second could be from a school or somewhere you have worked in a voluntary capacity, or it could be someone from your current employment.
Whoever you choose, you should contact your references before you start writing your application so that they are aware that they will be contacted and that a swift response is important. If your references are not ready this can hold up your application. Read more about choosing your referees.
The good news is that as soon as you press the Submit button on your application then it will appear in your chosen providers’ inbox. Please do not expect an instant response, particularly if you are applying for School Direct places, as the lead school who handles the application process on behalf of a partnership may have to contact your chosen school and wait for them to consider your application and set up an interview. This can take some time to organise, particularly when some schools have two-week timetables.
Please be patient and do attend all of your interviews, if you have been offered them, before making any final decisions. You never know – your first choice of school may not be your best choice and one of your other choices may prove to be a better fit for you.
About the author
Michelle Borders works for the Community Academies Trust Institute of Education (CAT IoE). Michelle has recruited trainee teachers for eight years for schools across the Midlands and chairs the regional hub for School Direct lead schools who are located in Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull. She regularly shares advice on the Aspiring Teacher Forum on Facebook. The CAT IoE is also a national Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) provider.
If you have questions about the different routes into teaching and specific queries about your own application, you should sign up for a Teacher Training Adviser. These advisers are teaching experts who are able to provide you with personalised assistance.