I’ve recently been contacted by a couple of trainees that have gained QTS but do not have positions for September. As you can imagine, they’re feeling somewhat disheartened and worried. I’m writing this post to let them know that it’s okay if they don’t secure a job for the new school year, that there are other options available and that there are many fantastic teachers that didn’t start their NQT year immediately after training.
So if you are a newly qualified teachers reading this and if you haven’t secured a position (yet), please try not to despair. Although the worry of income might be a concern, there are opportunities for employment available. To demonstrate this I took to twitter and asked for insight from those that have been in this position. In the rest of this post, I’ll share my experience and some insight from the edutwittersphere.
When I undertook my PGCE, I was living in a hamlet near Machynlleth, Mid Wales. To get to any large ‘urban’ conurbation, you were looking at a journey of 30 miles or more. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, jobs were few and far between. It was for this reason, along with a few others (which I discuss in more detail in Making it as a Teacher), that led me to applying for positions in West Kent/East Sussex.
However, the journey from Mach to Kent was a good 7-12 hours, thus I had to be very selective about the schools I applied to. Although my interview feedback was always positive, I sadly didn’t secure a position by the end of the school year.
However, despite passing ITT, by the end of the course I was lacking confidence and felt disheartened that I hadn’t managed to secure a role for September. I went back to bar work for the Summer.
When September rolled around, positions started to appear as the term went on yet I didn’t have much confidence left by this point and started looking for jobs outside of teaching, but within the education sector.
By October I had secured a position in a day nursery, working with primarily 2-4 year olds. Initially I hadn’t seen it as an opportunity to develop, merely something to pay the bills, but I quickly came to realise that I was witnessing the theory in practice. This sparked an interest in child development and I started exploring the topic beyond the what we’d learnt on the course.
Come Spring my employer wanted me to undertake the NVQ that would allow me to go on to do EYFS management qualifications. Their encouragement allowed my confidence to blossom which made me long for the classroom again. And so, with my employers support and encouragement (they were former teachers) I started applying for secondary positions again.
I had a few interviews in the Spring and finally secured a position just before the May half term. Whilst the school may not have been at the top of my list, as it was quite some distance away and I didn’t yet drive, I was relieved to finally be undertaking my NQT induction.
The school started their new school year in July and so that was when I started. I walked into my classroom, nervous as hell on the first day. Apart from the interview lesson, I hadn’t been in a room with teenagers for over a year I was now expected to independently teach them. I think I was visibly shaking beforehand. But, it went okay. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful. But I was now a Teacher. That meant a lot.
Feeling like a failure?
Try not to despair and instead think of this period as a time to develop.
I know it’s easier said than done, but:
- Don’t panic.
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
- Try thinking outside the box.
Many of the messages from those on twitter, mentioned how at first they felt like a failure. I did as well. But a common response has also been, that they felt the experience made them a better teacher. It cemented that they loved classroom teaching and allowed them to gain experience which others that have gone straight from training to teaching will never have.
So you haven’t a position (yet), what’s next?
You may not have secured a teaching position in a school for September, but that doesn’t mean you never will. For a while it may mean you have to think beyond a classroom teacher position to earn an income, but there are many ways you can do so within the education sector.
Twitter was extremely helpful are providing alternative options. Many sent me messages about what they did in between and how it helped and developed them. Rather than highlighting individual experiences, I’ve collated their thoughts to provide an idea of some of the options out there.
Beyond Classroom Teacher
Whilst it maybe challenging and the income insecure, supply can provide a flexible way of gaining experience.
- Gain experience of a variety of approaches to teaching and learning
- You experience a variety of schools, which will help you to identify and cement your ethos towards education and how it is delivered.
- Confidence building. Many of those that messaged me said that the experience of going into different schools (sometimes on a daily basis) was daunting at first. However working in different contexts with different people built their confidence overtime, of which benefited them in future interviews.
- Development of behaviour management. Some commented how they experienced a wide range of behaviour management policies and techniques which have influenced their approach to behaviour ever since.
- Supply allows you to create contacts in other schools. If you do a good job of supply, they may keep you in mind for future positions.
- You can say no – if you don’t like a school you’ve worked in before, you don’t have to go back.
- Empathy for supply staff. You’ll never meet a supply teacher and not make them feel welcome afterwards.
- Many have found ‘the one’ and have been at their schools for a long period of time.
More information on becoming a supply teacher can be found here.
2. Temporary Positions
Don’t be put off my temporary positions such as those covering long term sickness or maternity. Whilst they may not provide the security of a long-term contract, they have their benefits.
- Similar to those for supply teaching
- Longer term so can provide an opportunity to complete part of the NQT induction programme.
3. Teaching Assistant
Being a teaching assistant is underrated and underpaid. The skills, qualities and understanding one can develop from the position are not always recognised or appreciated by some in the teaching profession. I’ve worked with some incredible teaching assistants with degrees and other higher level qualifications in SEN, Educational Studies etc. Yet, they were earning less that £20,000. Unfortunately, this role doesn’t tend to pay well, but the experience gained can be extremely beneficial to your practice later on.
- you see the classroom from a different point of view
- you build relationships with students in a completely different way
- you see pupils approach learning differently to the classroom teacher
- opportunity to put into practice things you learnt during training
- experience in different year groups and school contexts
4. Resource Publishers
Why not consider applying for positions or sending resources you’ve made to companies that specialise in the publication of teaching resources? There are companies that specilise in key stage and/or subject specific resources as well as subject associations that encourage and pay teachers for creating and sharing resources through them. On occasions there are opportunities for contracted employment with them as well. Whilst the income may not be large or even regular, it can be a useful experience for the CV.
- You’ll gain experience in creating classroom resources
- You’ll also add to your personal resource bank
- Develop your curriculum and/or subject knowledge
- You may develop skills in project management
5. Alternatively, publish your own resources
Whilst it may not make a huge amount, it can be a developmental experience. As with publishing with a company, organisation or subject association it’ll provide you with new knowledge and skills. Whilst also providing an entrepreneurial opportunity.
- similar to publishing with resource publishers, except you have control. You can decide the design, format, topic etc.
- development of business and entrepreneurial skills
- you can do this around other employment
6. Education Companies and Organisations
When I considered leaving the profession back in Spring 2016, I started exploring other options. Whilst I never ended up sending applications, I wrote a number for education based companies. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I wouldn’t have been able to start until the end of July, I may have even sent some. Many looked just as fulfilling as classroom teaching but without the pressure, responsibility and hours.
- A different perspective on education
- Insight into how companies and organisations work with schools
- Networking possibilities
- Dependent on the focus of the company you may learn about an aspect of education you previously had little knowledge of e.g. educational technology
Most charities have an education team. Whilst positions usually do not pay well, they can be opportunity to feel like you are working towards something bigger through education. When I interned with Global Action Plan prior to my PGCE, I absolutely loved working on the EcoTeams programme. Whilst I worked on organising events across the country and preparing the resources for them I not only learnt about sustainable living but how to deliver courses to adults of all ages.
- Experience of education from a different perspective
- May involve resource creation and development
- Can involve the creation of courses, training or workshops
- May provide opportunities to go into schools and deliver workshops or educational packages
- May provide opportunities to deliver courses, training or workshops to adult learners
- Allows for networking
Usually tutoring takes place either 1-1 or within small groups, and whilst it may not be a 9-5 job, it can provide you with the opportunity to work in your chosen subject or key stage.
- Often, tutoring sessions are outside of school hours, which means you can arrange them around other work
- Working with small numbers of students
- Little preparation
- Develop knowledge and understanding of exam specifications if at KS4 or 5.
- Can test different approaches and strategies for teaching and learning
- Explore ways of building positive relationships with young people
9. Pastoral Roles
Whilst you’re not in a direct teaching role, a pastoral role can be beneficial in helping you to develop the skills and qualities that allow you to build effective, working relationships with students. There are schools that are happy to take applications for pastoral roles from people without teaching experience. The fact that you have QTS maybe beneficial here and lead to future employment.
- Working with young people from a different perspective
- Opportunity to develop skills and qualities that allow you develop effective, working relationships with students
- Insight into pastoral work, beneficial if it’s a route you’re thinking of going down later on
10. Other educational settings
As I did, you may like to look at other or alternative educational settings such as day nurseries, pre-schools, colleges or universities. Whilst they may not provide the opportunity to teach directly, they can be helpful in maintaining that connection to education. you may even wish to look at applying for teaching positions in other key stages or look at solely pastoral roles.
- Maintains link to primary, secondary or further education
- Opportunity to experience other settings providing insight into what comes before/after the stage at which you trained
Whilst there are many options available, they obviously come with challenges. These are some of the areas that I and others have experienced as a result. However, do not let them worry you. For many of us, these challenges turned out well.
- Positions may be low paid compared to new teacher salaries
- You many need to work several jobs in order to supplement education based work such as supply or tutoring
- You may feel financially insecure – but there are organisations like Education Support Partnership that can potentially provide financial support.
- Loss of confidence. Many felt that initially they lost confidence, but as they gained experience in other areas, it slowly returned.
- Expect the unexpected. You may end up working somewhere you never anticipated such as a supermarket, pub or pharmacy. Those that did, said that despite not being in education, they enjoyed the roles as it was something different and gave them further life experience.
So what do you do now?
1. Keep applying for positions
Whilst working elsewhere ensure you keep applying for the positions that you feel attracted to. However, don’t feel you need to apply to everything out of desperation. Something will find you eventually.
Some of the benefits of continuing to apply as highlighted by those that messaged me include:
- any interviews provide an opportunity to network
- school visits and interviews allow you to build up contacts which maybe beneficial in the future
- each interview developed interview technique, some benefited from increased confidence
- talking to staff at the schools was helpful and insightful
- visiting numerous schools cemented what they did and didn’t like in a school
- they felt more resilient by the time they started their NQT induction
- experiencing a number of schools meant they learnt that you shouldn’t just go by what is on the school web page – schools can be very different (positively and negatively) to what they portray
2. Maintain contact with your training schools (if you had a positive experience with them)
Stay in contact just in case something arises in the near or even distant future.
3. Widen your search
For some it maybe that you need to widen your search area, this may mean a longer commute or even a move. This is what I did, whilst it wasn’t ideal, it was doable.
4. Application and Interview Technique
You may wish to ask someone experienced to look over your application and in particular your letter or statement of application. Always ensure you individualise your application to the school you are applying to. I used to have a generic template which outlined my ethos, my previous experiences and how my qualifications influenced how I teach. Firstly, I would consider how my ethos and the school ethos relate, and add this in. Then I would take the job specification and adapt my content to the requirements of the school. When I did this, I always got an interview. The few times I did a ‘last minute’ generic application, it was obvious I hadn’t done my research and I wouldn’t be invited for interview. Correlation? Maybe.
My friend Tom Rogers, @RogersHistory has set up this course to help with this element.
5. Network and connect
Edutwitter these days seems to be a positive place to network and connect with teachers and school leaders making it possible to reach out and ask for support and guidance. I’ve seen a number of teachers ask about positions in particular areas and discussions have then led them to a job. There are plenty out their willing to support.
Get in touch
The following are some of those that messaged me and are happy to share their experiences and advice on the routes they took before undertaking their NQT induction.
Victoria Hewett @MrsHumanities – Other educational setting
Teaching for Teachers @CherylC65378170 – Supply
Nicola @warrender278 – Supply
MrBrooksGeog @MrBrooksGeog – Supply
Jodie Waters @HistoryWaters – Supply
Miss Wood @PEMissWood – Application Advice
MrsMc @clmckimm – Moved location
Sarah Gooch @gucci22 – Supply
Hannah McCarthy @HannahCarey4 – Maternity cover
Ms G @SWprimaryHT – Supply and Application Advice
Mrs M @KAOMoreton – Supply
Harriet Cornwell @First_Floor_8 – Supply
If you’re an early career teacher still looking for that first post you might also be interested in the facebook group that has recently been set up by Lorren Brennan @BrennanLorren, as a support space for those in this position.
If you’re reading this post but haven’t used twitter for professional purposes or are new to it, you might find this post of mine useful.
I really hope that if you are newly qualified teacher and happen to be in this position, that this post has provided you with some useful insight and the confidence that it will be okay eventually. You might not have a position for September, but something will arise. You will learn and develop during this in-between period and as many of those that messaged me have said, it’ll make you an even better teacher.
Before I say goodbye, I should probably plug my book, Making it as a Teacher. It’s full of ideas, advice and inspiration to support early career teachers through the first 5 years. Grab a copy here.